Kevin Durant On Kobe Bryant's Death: 'It's Hard To Comprehend All Of This'

Nets Head Coach Kenny Atkinson Says Team Is Hurting

Alec Gearty
January 28, 2020 - 3:32 pm

Kobe Bryant "meant the world" to Nets star Kevin Durant and an entire generation. 

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Bryant died Sunday in a helicopter crash, which claimed the lives of eight other individuals including his daughter, Gianna. It's a tragedy that has shaken the basketball world as fans and NBA players alike are left with heavy hearts. Durant spoke to reporters about the sudden loss of Bryant. 

"It's still hard to process this tragedy," Durant told reporters. "It made so many people in the world so sad. Having the opportunity to compete with Kobe and be around him in a human space was a joy and those emotions start coming out at once. It's hard to comprehend all of this.

"But having that time and those moments with Kobe, it was always about pressing forward," Durant added. "I think at this time it's so hard to do so with the amount of impact he had on all of us. It's hard to keep going right now. As a basketball community — as the world is as a whole — we're all just mourning and sticking together when it comes to this."

Brooklyn was set to face the Knicks when Bryant's death circulated across social media and news outlets. Kyrie Irving, immensely affected by the tragedy, didn't play in the contest and abruptly left Madison Square Garden. YES' Ian Eagle characterized the crowd at the arena, telling WFAN's Maggie Gray and Marc Malusis there was a "sullen feeling." 

Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson shared a similar sentiment in the team's locker room. 

"I didn't know Kobe like Kyrie knew him. I didn't know him like Spencer (Dinwiddie) knew him ...," Atkinson told reporters. "But these guys are like my kids, right? If they're hurting, I'm hurting and that's what got me very emotional — that our guys are hurting. The silence in the locker room, I've never seen anything like it. I've never seen a locker room just quiet. No one was saying a word. It wasn't like twenty minutes. It was like every time I walked in there."

Durant had always been a fan of Bryant. He considered Bryant as one of basketball's all time greatest players, putting him in his personal top-five.

Durant faced off against Bryant numerous times throughout his career, but he finally had the opportunity to play alongside the Lakers legend at the 2012 Olympics. Bryant, Durant and Team USA seized the gold medal in what became the first and only time the pair shared the Olympic podium. 

"I tried think about what I would say or what I would write, but nothing was big enough," Durant said. "That's how I feel about everything when it comes to Kobe Bryant ... it feels like nothing will ever be big enough to truly honor Kobe Bryant."