If it wasn’t clear before his tragic death, Kobe Bryant is easily one of the most respected figures in all of sports.
Now with the Los Angeles Lakers legend gone, players from all generations are finding ways to honor Bryant the best way they can with Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul being the latest to share their heartbreaking stories.
Anthony and Paul — along with Dwyane Wade and LeBron James — make up one of the NBA’s most prolific friend groups and it seems that each one of these four was not only devastated by the news, but all owe some portion of their success to Bryant.
Paul, who was supposed to be teammates with Bryant, spoke about how no matter what, he always looked to Bryant to see how he could improve both on and off the court. He also said that he prays that his daughter looks at him the way Gianna Bryant — who also devastatingly passed away with Bryant — looked at her dad, via Instagram:
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I don't know if I'll ever be able to fully process it. My parents have always said everything happens for a reason and its in God’s plan. But this one is different. Broken fingers, torn Achilles, it didn’t matter. You overcame it all!! You were DIFFERENT! Sometimes we competed so hard against each other that you could never tell how I was always watching YOU!! I needed to see how much better I needed to get and how much harder I needed to work! The love you had for the game was nowhere near the love you had for YOUR girls!! All 5 of them!! And Gigi, who we had already prearranged her marriage with lil Chris, is as beautiful and feisty as she could ever be!!! As I’ve watched you in retirement, as happy as you’ve ever been, I’ve sat back and prayed and hoped that my baby girl will look at me the way Gigi looks at you!!! I Love You and will miss you with all my heart my brother!!! All my love to Vanessa and all the families during this time 🙏🏾 #Mamba4Life #Mambacita
Anthony also shared his feelings following the tragedy, saying that it will never make sense to him and that Bryant had just called him to tell him that he would be attending the team’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers, via Instagram:
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Damn Bro!! 😥 I hate when I have so much to say, but I can’t put any of it into words. The times I have the most to say are the times that I can’t talk. I’m screaming inside but I can’t be heard. YOU don’t know how hard it is to try to pretend to smile when I have these clouds of emotions. YOU just called me and told me you were coming to the game Friday and that you were proud of me and “regardless of anything, stay true to myself and STAYME7O” We were just laughing about how hard YOU was working GiGi and her teammates and I told YOU they need a day off 😂😢 This pain is almost unbearable Champ! Why you bro? Why GiGi? Why leave Vanessa with this Sadness and Pain. WHY? This will never make sense to me. I know I’m not suppose to question GODs Will. I know GOD doesn’t make mistakes. It just seems like It always rains the hardest on those who deserve the sun. There are moments in life when there’s simply NO words to describe the pain within. This is one of them. YOU will continue to be Loved. YOU will be missed. YOU will forever be remembered. YOUR legacy will live on FOREVER. OUR FRIENDSHIP will never be forgotten. I know YOU will be near, Even if I don’t see YOU. PEACE KING!!! “There Are No Goodbyes. Where Ever You’ll be, You’ll be in Our Hearts” All Praise Due #STAYME7O
It’s clear that Anthony and Paul — like so many others — are absolutely broken from this. Anthony was drafted in 2003 and Paul in 2005, meaning they both likely watched as Bryant won three straight championships and became an inspiration to an entire generation of fans and players.
This is just the tip of the iceberg when discussing the impact Bryant had. Players who came before him all the way down to players who never shared the court with him today all feel like they lost someone they could look up to.
For Paul and Anthony, they lost someone they saw as both a competitor and a friend — as well as someone they idolized.