Kyrie Irving Reflects On Kobe Bryant: 'His Legacy Is Going To Live On Forever'

Nets Star Played In First Game Since Tragic Passing

Alec Gearty
January 30, 2020 - 8:39 am

Kyrie Irving took the floor Wednesday night with a heavy heart. 

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Irving hadn't played since his mentor Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash in California, which claimed the lives of eight other people including Bryant's daughter, Gianna. 

The Nets honored Bryant, Gianna as well as the other victims from the crash prior to their meeting with the Pistons. In December, Bryant and his daughter sat courtside at the Nets game. The clip of the Lakers great and Gianna discussing the game went viral and continued to do so after their passing. The same seats — with the exception of flowers — were left unoccupied in an emotional pregame tribute.

Irving scored 20 points against Detroit. The Nets won their second of their last three games, but that wasn't on Irving's mind following the game. Irving spoke to reporters for the first time since he lost his mentor. 

"It's hard to even just conjure up the words," Irving told ESPN after the game. "You try to find a clear-cut message that you would send Gigi and Kobe and everybody who lost their lives in such a tragedy like that it's hard, but — I've been trying to do this the last few days, just try to get ready for a moment like this but I just got to let it be, let it flow. I know he's down watching as well as Gigi as well as the young ball players that were on the (helicopter) as well. I was just with them at the Mamba Academy, working out in the summertime...

"It's heartbreaking for all of us, but I'm not the only one dealing with something so I think the most beautiful thing is that it's connecting all of us," Irving added. "His seeds that he's planted in all of us are going to continue to grow and his legacy is going to live on forever."

The 27-year-old didn't play when he received the tragic news Sunday afternoon. He was excused from facing the Knicks as he mourned Bryant's sudden death — a loss that continues to rock the NBA community. Irving's teammate, Spencer Dinwiddie, recently changed his number from No. 8 to No. 26 in honor of Bryant

Irving spent most of his career under Bryant's tutelage. He often worked out alongside the Lakers great during the offseason at Bryant's Mamba Sports Academy. In a 2019 interview, Bryant named Irving as one of the mentees as "the one I'm closest to." The two shared a special bond. 

"I asked him for help probably a little while ago — about four or five years ago," Irving told reporters, via SNY. "I don't think I was ready to be a mentee at that point. In some ancient texts, they say when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. I had that type of relationship with him, where I was able to ask him almost anything no matter how nervous I was or how fearful I was. He was just easy to approach with those types of questions about what goes on in a day in and day out basis of chasing something that's bigger than yourself. 

"He left a lot of teachings or a lot of breadcrumbs, I call them," Irving continued. "I just followed all of them. I followed every single one and that probably pays a lot of focus into the person I am today. ... I saw what he was creating and I wanted that same structure. He had his own company, his own belief system, his own principles that he lived by. He didn't five a f— what anyone said. I think having that type of strength — I think the most important thing he always embodied was when someone asked him a question, 'how do you do it Kobe?' ... he would say the best shot is the next shot. It was what he helped you see inside of yourself."