The NBA world continues to mourn the deaths of Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna Bryant, and seven others.
The Lakers already had to have a game postponed, rescheduling their Jan. 28 contest against Kawhi Leonard and the Los Angeles Clippers. The Lakers will now play their first game since the tragedy on Jan. 31 against the Portland Trail Blazers.
Leonard is one of those who was especially affected by the shocking helicopter crash as not only did he lose someone he looked up to in Bryant, but he also lost his pilot. Ara Zobayan was also Leonard’s pilot and when asked about it, he had nothing but positive things to say about both men.
Leonard spoke about what Bryant specifically meant to him, saying that it still hasn’t come together for him that this is all real, according to Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN:
“It’s sad every day,” Leonard said. “You know, you kind of feel like life isn’t real once you start seeing these little monuments or the pictures that people are putting up with his face and the year he was born and the year he died. It’s not all come together yet.”
Leonard then spoke about Zobayan and revealed not only was he one of the best pilots, but he was also a great human being as well:
“Great guy. Super nice. He was one of the best pilots,” Leonard said. “That is a guy who you ask for to fly you from city to city. It’s just surreal still.
“He will drop me off and say he is about [to] go pick up Kobe, [and] Kobe said hello. Or he’ll just be like, ‘I just dropped Kobe off, and he said hello.’ Vice versa. So it’s a crazy interaction. He’s a good dude, and I’m sorry for everybody.”
Leonard is not what people consider to be the emotional type, but he clearly feels a great deal of pain over the losses he suffered. Bryant meant so much to so many people that it’s hard to quantify the individual effect he had sometimes, but moments like this show exactly how much impact he had.
Leonard will now be mourning the loss of two of his friends, a pain that is simply hard to describe.
However, Leonard is one of the few NBA players that has that ‘Mamba Mentality,’ meaning he’ll be fighting through the pain to be the best he can be every day.