The entire basketball world was affected by the tragic passing of Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna Bryant, and seven others in a helicopter crash.
There is no doubt his presence will be felt at every Los Angeles Lakers game moving forward and each contest provides more reflection from those in the building.
The team’s most consistent rival throughout Bryant’s career was undoubtedly the San Antonio Spurs, helmed by head coach Gregg Popovich. Though Popovich has already spoken on the tragedy, it still weighs heavy on the hearts of everyone in the league and he took some time to discuss the impact Bryant had on himself and everyone.
“There’s a lot of years that we watched Kobe. A lot of competitiveness playing against him, coaching against him, being with him at All-Star Games,” Popovich said ahead of the Lakers-Spurs game. “I think everybody has their situations where even if they didn’t know him at all, they feel like they did. Especially the people in Los Angeles.”
Even from afar, it has been apparent how much Bryant meant to the Los Angeles area and it will take a long time for things to go back to normal.
“We all have those thoughts that just pass by when you lose somebody and they just keep coming. It will take a while for them to stop and the better you knew him, the more you think about the times you did have with him and the things you talked about. He was special to all of us in different ways.”
There is simply no way to prepare for a tragedy of this magnitude. For it to be so sudden for someone so young just makes it that more difficult.
“When somebody is sick for a long time and you expect it, you deal with that. But when somebody is taken the way he and his daughter and the other people were taken, that makes it a tragedy and more painful in some ways,” Popovich said.
It has been apparent just how much Bryant meant to so many people. Everyone has expressed the kind of impact he has had on them, but very few are able to express things so perfectly as Popovich. He has never shied away from any subject and for as hard as it is for everyone, he also made sure to note just how tough it is for the families themselves.
“The tragedy for the Bryant family and all the other people is something we all learn to live with. We all get lost at a certain point and everybody does the best they can to get through it. I can only wish for them that that process is as peaceful as possible because it’s really, really tough,” Popovich said.
“He was like a superhero who was actually human. There aren’t any superheroes that are really human, but we kind of thought of him as one those.”