The late Kobe Bryant was an inspiration to many young players around the NBA. Despite the numerous relationships that Kobe had around the NBA community, the most special one might have been with Brooklyn Nets starting point guard Kyrie Irving. Kobe tragically died in a tragic helicopter crash that took nine lives on January 26 of last year. Kyrie wore Kobe’s Laker jersey to the arena before Monday’s matchup with the Miami Heat to commemorate the one-year anniversary of his tragic death.
Legends are forever. pic.twitter.com/H1r2owgLrT
— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) January 25, 2021
Kyrie Rocks Kobe’s Jersey Pregame
“You know who I was rocking tonight,” Kyrie said to reporters as he walked up the ramp of the Barclays Center. Kyrie’s relationship with Kobe started during the Summer of 2012 during Team USA training camp. Kyrie had just won the NBA Rookie of the Year award and was a 20-year-old, oozing with confidence so he did the unexpected. He challenged Kobe to a game of one-on-one. The viral video of the interaction has more than 3 million views on YouTube. It is one of Kyrie’s favorite stories to tell.
“I walk over there and my heart’s pounding, bro. I don’t know why,” Kyrie said to his teammate Kevin Durant on his podcast The Etcs. “And I practiced the line in my head. Like when I get the chance Kobe, I could beat you one-on-one. I practiced in the mirror before I got there,” he said. “I’m going to go straight up like Kobe, man. Like I could beat you one-on-one,” Kyrie continued. “Honestly we should get this one-on-one game. I think you can’t guard me. I kind of went off-script. And then Duke Blue Planet was right there and they just captured the whole thing, the exchange.”
Kyrie Had Kobe’s Respect
Kobe reverently told Kyrie he stood no chance and the end result was him agreeing to play Kyrie one on one for $50,000 that would be donated to one of his charities. The game of one-on-one never happened as Kobe tore his Achilles the following season. Kyrie however gained something even more valuable. Kobe’s respect.
According to Shlomo Sprung of Forbes, After Kobe’s tragic helicopter crash last January, Kyrie found out that Kobe had a conversation with his business team about his and Kyrie’s interaction. Kobe was actually impressed with the spunk of the 20-year-old.
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“He was like ‘man, this mother f-er, this little kid Kyrie, he has the nerve to come up and talk to me?’” said Kyrie. “Mind you in any other situation, Kobe would’ve just strapped up his shoes, but I think he also had mutual respect for me at that point early on in my life where it was like you know, $50,000 next year, let’s do it. We never got a chance to play, but after that point, I just studied him a lot more. My respect grew.”
Kyrie is just one of many people whose life Kobe impacted both on and off the court. May his memory live on forever.