It’s been almost a month since Kobe Bryant and eight others were killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California. In return, the 2020 NBA All-Star Weekend has been, in many ways, as much about honoring the late, great Bryant, as it has been about the actual festivities, and rightfully so.
As we prep for a game of the NBA elites, Bryant in many ways epitomized what it took to be an athlete at the highest level of competition. From his professionalism, to his tenacity, to his will to succeed, Bryant’s “Mamba Mentality” has helped carve out the NBA as we know it today.
As fans littered the United Center in Chicago this weekend with numerous number eight and number 24 jerseys with Bryant plastered on their backs, the players in the All-Star game feel just as connected to the all-time great player. Reigning NBA MVP and All-Star captain Giannis Antetokounmpo is no exception.
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Giannis Calls Kobe Bryant the ‘Whole Generation’s Idol’
At a recent press conference ahead of All-Star weekend, Giannis Antetokounmpo answered numerous questions from news reporters. One of the topics brought up was the tragic death of Kobe Bryant. Giannis, who was notably a big fan of Bryant and had built a relationship with the all-time great since entering the league, had this to say about the fallen hero.
“He was my idol. Not just my idol, probably the whole generation’s idol. For us, he was the Michael Jordan of our generation. He gave back to the game so much. He gave back to the players. A lot of people, when they’re so great, don’t do that. Talent is worthless if you are not willing to share it, and he was one of those guys that shared with us. He will definitely be missed.”
Giannis also touched on the role that Bryant played in his personal playing career, stating that Kobe was “a guy that mentored me in the last few years of my career, a guy that was always there for me,” Antetokounmpo said of Bryant. “In the regular season, the playoffs, a guy that told me that whenever I need something, I could just reach out to him, and he was literally always there. If I needed something, he would text me back, call me.”
Giannis Embodies Bryant’s Competitive Nature
Nearly a year ago, Antetokounmpo sat down with Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN to discuss why he doesn’t associate or build friendships with opponents.
Antetokounmpo went on to further clarify his reasoning in greater detail.
“I think it’s just being competitive. If I know that I’m going to play against them and I’m going to see them in the playoffs or I’m going to see them in many more years to come, I try to stay away and not build that relationship because I know that when I get on the court I’m going to go 100 percent. And maybe if you build a relationship with somebody or I’m close with somebody, he probably expects me to go 50 percent or take it easy on him. But that’s…I don’t want things holding me back when I go out there and play.”