Kevin Durant, like the rest of the basketball world, was devastated when he heard the news of Kobe Bryant’s untimely death on January 20, 2020.
“It’s still hard to process this,” the Brooklyn Nets star said two days later, per NBA.com. “It’s a tragedy. It’s made so many people in the world so sad.”
On Thursday, more than a year after the helicopter crash that killed Bryant at 41 along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others, Durant received a piece of memorabilia that links him with the Lakers legend.
Durant Finishes What Kobe Started
Durant sat down in front of a Bryant-Durant basketball card that had already been hand-signed by Bryant. Durant then took a sharpie to autograph his side of the card, completing the 1-of-1 masterpiece.
The card — part of Panini America’s “Immaculate Collection” — wasn’t going to a fan, though. This one, according to a tweet by Boardroom, was staying with Durant for his personal collection. Panini America gifted it to him.
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Durant was the No. 2 overall pick out of Texas in the 2007 NBA Draft. He went on to face Bryant 25 times in the regular season during his time as a member of the Oklahoma City franchise. Bryant and Durant also faced off in two playoff series and won a gold medal together as members of the 2012 USA Olympics team.
“Having an opportunity to compete against Kobe and be around him in the human space was a joy, and those emotions start coming out at once,” Durant said, per NBA.com. “It’s hard to comprehend all of this. Having that time and those moments with Kobe, it was always about pressing forward. And I think at this time it is so hard to do so with just the amount of impact he had on all of us. It is hard to keep going right now. As a basketball community, as the world as a whole, I know we’re just mourning and sticking together when it comes to this.”
Durant leads the Eastern Conference in fan voting for the 2021 All-Star Game. He’s putting up MVP-caliber numbers, after all: 29.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game to go along with a 52.9 shooting percentage.
For Durant, honoring Kobe means treating every game like it’s his last. Per NBA.com, it would mean for “every basketball player [to] go out there and play as hard as they can every night.”
And yet even that would fall short of truly honoring Bryant in Durant’s eyes.
“It feels like nothing will ever be big enough to truly honor Kobe Bryant,” Durant said, per NBA.com.
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