The former New York Giants player, 33, opened up about the loss at Pepsi’s Bienvenidos a Miami Fiesta presented with Carnival Cruise Line at Pepsi Zero Sugar Presents Neon Beach on Friday, January 31.
“It was heartbreaking just to hear the tragedy and how everything unfolded,” Cruz exclusively told Us Weekly. “I mean, it was just unfortunate that it had to happen in general, let alone to someone like Kobe and his family. You know, he’s done so much for the community, for Los Angeles, for the game of basketball, for the Lakers, for my entire childhood. I mean, he just means so much to the culture. It’s unfortunate.”
Bryant, 41, and his daughter Gianna, 13, were among nine people killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, on January 26.
“I remember crying like a baby when I heard it and just feeling really emotional and sad,” Cruz added. “I don’t know if that’s going away any time soon, but it’s definitely just unfortunate that it had to happen to one of our legends.”
As for favorite memories of Bryant, Cruz told Us he had “so many to choose from,” but settled on a time when the basketball legend came through in a pinch.
“I had injured my calf and needed surgery, and he had just come off his Achilles injury, and I reached out to him to get a list of recommendations of doctors for lower leg injuries,” the New Jersey native recalled. “And I was like, ’It’s Kobe. I emailed him and … he’ll be back a week later or, like, 10 days from now, whenever he gets around to it.’ He hit me back in five minutes with three names and at the end of it was just like, ‘You know, if you need anything else, don’t be afraid to reach out.’”
Cruz continued: “I was like, ‘That’s what Kobe is. He’s a guy that helps others, that helps other athletes no matter what walks of life they come from, no matter what team they’re on, what sport they play, he’s going to help you, try to help you advance your career and get better no matter what the circumstances are.’”
With reporting by Alexandra Hurtado
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