As Los Angeles Lakers fans across the country commemorate the late Kobe Bryant, Jerry West reflected on his own personal relationship with the five-time champion and explained how he will be remembered.
Bryant was taken 13th overall by the Charlotte Hornets in the 1996 NBA Draft and two weeks later was traded to the Lakers for veteran center Vlade Divac. At the time, it was highly controversial to draft a player straight out of high school, and the Hornets gave indications they had no use for Bryant.
However, West saw something in Kobe that other teams did not and was willing to take the chance. At 19 years old and less than a year removed from Lower Merion High School in Philadelphia, Bryant headed to Los Angeles to begin what would become a 20-year NBA career.
West developed a close relationship with Bryant over his many years with the Lakers, and was part of an ESPN special that aired Sunday. West described himself as a babysitter of sorts and surrogate father to Kobe, who frequently had dinners at the home of the then-Lakers general manager.
The ESPN interview included a quote from Bryant on wanting to be remembered as someone who left the game in a better place than when he found it. Bryant believed that if he did it the right way, his game would live on through others, and he did not take that lightly.
After Kobe’s quote was relayed to him during an interview with ESPN’s Lisa Salters, West responded his goal unequivocally was accomplished:
“He did exactly that. How many people can do that? There’s not many legends out there. There are a few wannabes, but there’s not really these iconic figures that stand above the rest. He’s one of them. To try to remember him properly, I don’t know how anyone else does. I know how I do. I loved him like a son. I admired his talent. Leaders don’t come along very often and when someone of his caliber leaves far too young, it takes a toll on a lot of people, in particular people who cared about him a lot.”
Kobe’s legacy has transcended basketball. Bryant was not only a legend on the court, but as a father, husband, teacher and businessman. While Kobe is not physically with us today, his spirit and inspiration will live on forever.
Vanessa Bryant asks fans to focus on positive memories
In a recent post she shared with her Instagram followers, Vanessa Bryant asked fans and media to be considerate when sharing remembrance footage. Vanessa asked to refrain from posting pictures and videos of the wreckage or helicopter in the air.
Instead, she’s hoping videos of remembrance will be shared in a “classy and tasteful manner” that is respectful of their losses.
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