Kobe Bryant’s death affected many around the NBA and beyond. Many players have paid tribute to Bryant in various ways, from number changes to sneaker choices to offering up their favorite Kobe memories, all in an effort to honor the legendary Laker.
As such, it has been a very emotional week around the league, reaching a fever pitch with TNT’s hour-long tribute to Bryant on Tuesday that included his former teammate Shaquille O’Neal among others. The Nets were among the teams that played on Sunday in the hours after Bryant’s death was made public, facing their cross-town rivals in Manhattan. Kyrie Irving, who was extremely close with Kobe, did not play in the game due to his grief.
Irving made his return to the lineup on Wednesday, as the Nets beat the Pistons 125-115, and had 20 points, five rebounds, and five assists in the win. After the game, he did an on-court interview with ESPN’s Cassidy Hubbarth, who asked him about his relationship with Bryant, which Irving answered eloquently after pushing through the initial wave of emotion that overcame him.
I know he’s now watching us, as well as Gigi … I think the most beautiful thing is that it’s connecting all of us.”
Kyrie Irving on the loss of his close friend Kobe Bryant. pic.twitter.com/1GX0LRaxXG
— ESPN (@espn) January 30, 2020
“It’s hard to conjure up the words and the clear cut message you would send to Gigi and Kobe and everybody that lost their lives in such a tragedy like that,” Irving said. “It’s hard, but I’ve been trying to do this the last few days, trying to get ready for a moment like this, but I just gotta let it be. I know he’s now watching as well as Gigi as well as the young ball players that were on the [helicopter] as well. I was just with them at the Mamba Academy, working out with them in the summer time, as well as them girls losing their lives. It’s heartbreaking for all of us, but I’m not the only one dealing with something. I think the most beautiful thing is it’s connecting all of us and his seeds that he’s planted in all of us that continue to grow, and his legacy is going to live on forever, obviously. But that man was a philosopher, he was a teacher, he left so many great things here for us to follow, and I’m just going to continue to carry the torch.”