The 44-year-old athlete was participating in the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines in San Diego when Bryant and eight others died in a tragic helicopter crash in Calabasas, California. During the tournament, fans from behind the ropes were chanting “Kobe!” and ‘‘Do it for Mamba’’ to Woods. Despite the references to Bryant and his famed nickname, Woods said he was not told about his friend’s death until his caddie, Joe LaCava, informed him.
“I didn’t know until [LaCava] told me coming off the 18th green,” Woods explained to CBS Sports on Sunday. “I didn’t really understand why the people in the gallery were saying, ‘Do it for Mamba.’ But now I understand.”
Woods continued, “It’s a shocker for everyone. Unbelievably sad, and one of the more tragic days. For me, the reality is kind of just setting in because I was told just five minutes ago.”
The golfer’s caddie was informed about Bryant’s death by two onsite reporters. In receiving this information, he made the call to delay sharing the news with the four-time PGA champion until after he completed his final round.
“I thought it would be better off not telling him,’’ LaCava, 65, told The New York Post on Sunday. “I didn’t think he’d be to the point where he couldn’t play golf, but I figured I’d wait to the end. It was too much of [a] distraction.”
LaCava continued, “I waited until we got into the tunnel on 18 [after his round was complete] to tell him, because I didn’t want the cameras on him and see the shock on his face.’’
Bryant was 41 when he died in Sunday’s fiery helicopter crash in Los Angeles. His daughter Gianna, 13, was also among the nine victims whose lives were claimed in the fatal accident. Bryant shared Gianna and three other daughters — Natalia, 17, Bianka, 3, and Capri, 7 months — with his wife of nearly two decades, Vanessa Laine Bryant.
Kobe was a five-time NBA Champion, an 18-time All-Star and an Academy Award winner. He got started as a pro basketballer in 1996, when he opted to skip college and go straight into the NBA. He spent his 20-year athletic career with the Los Angeles Lakers.