Kobe Bryant opened up about his feelings on death and the afterlife in a resurfaced interview with The Ringer from 2016 — four years before his untimely death in a helicopter crash on Sunday, January 26.
The former Los Angeles Lakers player explained that he had a “comfortable” relationship with death and an “understanding” of its purpose.
“You can’t have life without death,” he explained at the time. “You can’t have light without dark. So it’s an acceptance of that and when it came time to decide whether or not I should retire that’s really an acceptance of that mortality all athletes face.”
He added, “And if you combat it, you’ll always have that inner struggle within yourself, you know what I mean? So I’m comfortable with it.”
When asked if he had any thoughts on what happens after people die, the 18-time NBA All-Star admitted he wasn’t sure.
“I don’t know, but I’ll know when I die,” Bryant said. “To me, it’s that simple. I don’t know. We’ll see.”
Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, were among nine people who died in a crash in his private helicopter on Sunday. He was 41 years old.
Later that day, fans of Bryant’s 20-year career with the Lakers gathered outside of the Staples Arena to pay tribute to the legendary athlete.
“Fans are crying and wiping their tears. Some have bouquets of white roses,” an eyewitness told Us Weekly. “There is a huge white, purple and gold bouquet of roses in front of the fence with a ribbon that reads, ‘Kobe We Love You, RIP’ … Everyone is silent.”
Celebrities also took to social media to honor the late basketball player with tributes honoring his memory with many recalling the close bond they shared with the athlete.
“There’s no words to express the pain Im going through with this tragedy of loosing my neice [sic] Gigi & my brother @kobebryant I love u and u will be missed,” Shaquille O’Neal wrote via Instagram alongside four photos of the pair, including one snap of them embracing on the court. “My condolences goes out to the Bryant family and the families of the other passengers on board. IM SICK RIGHT NOW.”
Lamar Odom noted how much Bryant taught him both on and off the court in his Instagram post.
“Even though our relationship wasn’t father/son, it was more like him being a teacher and me being his brother,” Odom, 40, wrote.
Michael Jordan also remembered Bryant and his daughter Gianna in a statement to Us writing, “I am in shock over the tragic news of Kobe’s and Gianna’s passing. Words can’t describe the pain I’m feeling. I loved Kobe — he was like a little brother to me. We used to talk often, and I will miss those conversations very much.”
Bryant is survived by his wife, Vanessa Laine Bryant, whom he married in 2001, and daughters Natalia, 17, Bianka, 3, and Capri, 7 months.
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