The sports world and Southern California in particular were thrown into a state of shock in January when Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven other passengers tragically passed away in a helicopter accident.
The group was traveling to Bryant’s Mamba Sports Academy, where Gianna and her teammates were set to participate in a tournament. The flight was one Bryant had regularly taken and given the aura of invincibility he created during an illustrious career, it made the tragedy all the more difficult to accept as reality.
His passing resonated with several Dodgers, some of whom were fortunate to meet the five-time champion when he attended a 2018 World Series game at Dodger Stadium. Clayton Kershaw and Justin Turner were among those to speak publicly about Bryant, and other teammates shared messages on social media.
During a recent appearance on AM 570’s “Dodger Talk,” Mookie Betts revealed he had developed somewhat of a relationship with Bryant, and after being traded to the Dodgers, the two were likely to meet in Los Angeles:
“Obviously I’m a fan. I actually got to talk to him a pretty decent amount through Body Armor when we did things together. When I was struggling last year early on, me and him talked a little bit. He kind of gave me some words of advice. Last time I talked to him, I told him I’d see him out in L.A. And then the [accident] happened, so it’s really unfortunate.”
Like several other athletes and those who crossed paths with Bryant, Betts took the message of always needing to be confident in his abilities:
“Just [to keep moving forward] and that I have to be myself. No matter what I have to keep trying to instill fear in whoever I’m competing against, no matter how I feel. That kind of resonated. No matter how I felt that day, I was going to go in, be confident in myself and do what I can.”
When reflecting on the impact Bryant had on his life, Turner expressed a feeling shared by thousands. “I think the hard part for everyone is he grew up in the living room with you,” Turner said in January.
“Watching him play for so many years, my generation, when you think sports in L.A., Kobe is the top of the top. Just really feeling for his family — Vanessa and the girls. It’s difficult to even wrap your head around. As much as he’s done on the court, the things he was doing and getting involved in after his career, are remarkable.
“You don’t find superstars of his caliber continue to be that influential in a community and for the game of basketball, especially fo women’s basketball. He’s a guy I always looked up to. Every time I had a water bottle or piece of trash or picking up balls in the cage, you grab it and shoot it towards the trash can or ball basket and yell, ‘Kobe!’
“I’m just glad I got to grow up watching him and seeing everything he did and how amazing of a man he was. It’s pretty special.”
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