Los Angeles Lakers great Jerry West remembered the special bond that Kobe Bryant shared with his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna Bryant, before their tragic deaths.
Wednesday marks the two-year anniversary of the helicopter crash that killed Kobe, Gianna and seven others in Calabasas, Calif.
“I just saw this enormous love and respect for this little girl,” West told The New York Times. “She was kind of the apple of his eye.”
West, a 14-time All-Star who spent his entire playing career with the Lakers, was the team’s executive vice president of basketball operations when Los Angeles traded for Bryant after the 1996 NBA Draft. Bryant, who died at age 41, spent his entire 20-year playing career with the Lakers, winning five championships.
“He was just one of those unique players that comes along,” West told The Times. “He had a big personality. He was very bright. He was going to be a bigger success off the court than on the court. He was taken away too young.”
Bryant, who retired from the NBA in 2016, had four daughters with Vanessa Bryant, his wife of nearly 19 years. He and Gianna —his second-eldest child — were traveling to the teenager’s basketball game when the crash occurred.
“It’s hard not to be reminded of the day he passed away,” West, 83, told the newspaper. “I don’t think anyone will forget that for a long time.”