News of Kobe Bryant’s death started circulating just a few minutes before the Pro Bowl. During an ESPN interview, Packers defensive end Za’Darius Smith noted that Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson gathered the NFC team in the locker room to remember the Lakers legend and say a prayer for Bryant’s family.
“He [Russell Wilson] called us up and said a prayer for his family,” Smith said, per the Seattle Times.
Wilson also posted a heartfelt message on Instagram calling Bryant one of his “greatest inspirations.” Wilson included a photo of them together at Richard Sherman’s charity baseball event.
“You were one of my greatest inspirations. You will forever be missed. #RIP Kobe and Gianna. #MambaMentality ??????,” Wilson noted on Instagram.
Pete Carroll Noted That the Pro Bowl Players Were “Crushed” After Learning About Bryant’s Death
The Pro Bowl was expected to have a festive atmosphere celebrating some of the NFL’s top players. Bryant’s death prompted a bit of a cloud over the game as fans and players alike processed the passing of one of the NBA’s all-time greats. Seahawks’ Pete Carroll was the head coach for the NFC and admitted his players were “crushed” after learning about the tragedy.
“He’s been such an iconic figure to us,” Carroll told ESPN, per NBC Sports. “We’ve cited Kobe so many times because of who he is and because of the extraordinary nature of his make-up and all. When it hit our locker room our guys were crushed. We all were. We didn’t know what to do. Were we going to walk out on the field and play a football game? It didn’t feel like the right thing to do at the time. But we thought if we was going to have a say in it, he would want us to go and play. He’s been an irreplaceable figure. And we’ve cited him so many times. It’s a great, crushing loss.”
Prior to the Seahawks, Carroll coached at USC for nine seasons during some of Bryant’s best years. Carroll admitted that their paths crossed at times when they were both having success in Los Angeles.
Russell Wilson Gave Up His Starting QB Spot for Drew Brees
Wilson’s leadership skills came through in a variety of ways during the Pro Bowl. The Seahawks quarterback has admitted on multiple occasions that he looked up to Drew Brees. Amidst retirement rumors, Wilson opted to give up his starting spot for Brees just in case it ended up being his final game. Brees also offered his reaction to Bryant’s death in an interview during the game.
“He was a guy who I always hoped I would have the chance to be around him more,” Brees said, per NOLA.com. “I have so much respect for him as a competitor. I know he inspired so many people in so many different ways. One of the great competitors of any generation. Not just with sports but with the way he approached a lot of things and what he was doing now after basketball. I pray for him. I pray for his family. I know we don’t know all the details yet but it’s a tragic loss.”