MANILA, Philippines – Kobe Bryant touched the lives of basketball fans all over the world, but he has also made an impact on sports greats, who likewise have created their own legacies.
Three-time NBA champion Dwyane Wade posted an emotional video message on social media as he remembered how important Bryant was to him in his life.
“Today is one of the saddest days in my lifetime. It seems like a bad, bad dream that I just want to wake up from. It’s a nightmare,” started Wade, who was clearly holding back tears.
“I know that we all feel the same way about such a great leader, a great champion, a great person. If you guys got a chance to meet Kobe, if you got a chance to really know Kobe, there ain’t nobody better, man.”
“Emotions all over the place. These are the moments when you ask: ‘Why?'”
As he sent out his condolences to the Bryant family and expressed his despair over Gianna Bryant – who also died in the same helicopter crash on Sunday, January 26 (Monday, January 27, Manila time) – Wade and his family shared their fond memories of the Lakers legend.
Wade – who won an Olympic gold medal with Bryant in 2008 – admitted that the late 5-time NBA champion’s retirement in 2016 affected his desire to continue playing in the league.
“When Kobe retired from the game of basketball, he left a hole in the game of basketball, he left a hole in my wanting to play,” added Wade.
“When I came into the league, I chased him. That’s who I chased. I wanted to be respected by him, and once I reached that level, I knew I did something.”
“Kobe, thank you, man. Thank you for the memories. We got a lot of good ones.”
Aside from Wade, other NBA stars like Dallas’ Luka Doncic, Spurs’ DeMar Derozan, and even former Boston Celtics star Paul Pierce – who rivaled Bryant for a number of seasons – paid tribute to the “Black Mamba”.
Bryant’s impact extended outside of the NBA as the New England Patriots’ Tom Brady tweeted how he already missed the All-Star.
We miss you already Kobe
We miss you already Kobe— Tom Brady (@TomBrady) January 26, 2020
American golf legend Tiger Woods – a Lakers fan for life – revealed that he was initially confused with people telling him “Do it for, Mamba” during the Farmers Insurance Open.
After finding out about Bryant’s death, Woods was shocked and unbelievably sad like everyone else in his post-game interview.
“The fire,” said Woods about Bryant when asked to describe the NBA great.
“He burns so competitively hot. The desire to win. He brought it out each and every night on both ends of the floor.”
Beyond the US, sports stars who have come to know Bryant like Novak Djokovic and football icons Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe and Harry Kane mourned over his passing.
Before opening his 2020 Australian Open campaign, Djokovic said in an interview that he considered Bryant as one of his “mentors”, having talked with him over the phone especially during the peak of the Serbian’s career-threatening elbow injury.
“He was really one of the people who were there for me, who could give me very valuable advices and guidelines to kind of believe and trust in myself, trust the process that I’ll be back. I’m very grateful to him for being there for me, for being supportive,” said Djokovic.
“I love Kobe, who doesn’t? He’s an amazing guy – one of the best basketball players and athletes of all-time.”
My heart truly mourns over the news today. Kobe was a great mentor and friend to me. You and your daughter will live forever in our hearts. There are not enough words to express my deepest sympathies to the Bryants and every family suffering from this tragedy. RIP my friend pic.twitter.com/VRmgaOaITT— Novak Djokovic (@DjokerNole) January 27, 2020
England national men’s football team captain and Tottenham forward Kane said that Bryant was a special person, who inspired him to work harder in his sport.
“I remember talking to you after your Jersey retirement and Oscar win. Both times you were more concerned about pushing me to the next level which shows the humble man you were! You will be missed by everyone because you inspired so many. Thank you!,” wrote Kane about his encounter with Bryant.
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I still can’t believe what happened yesterday. Kobe you were truly one of the special ones, not only as a sportsman but as a person as well! I remember talking to you after your Jersey retirement and Oscar win. Both times you were more concerned about pushing me to the next level which shows the humble man you were! You will be missed by everyone because you inspired so many. Thank you! My heart goes out to all the families who have lost loved ones in this tragic accident. R.I.P Kobe, Gianna and everyone who lost their lives