Kobe Bryant was known as one of the best athletes in the world — he played 20 seasons in the NBA, won five NBA championships, was an 18-time All-Star, a four-time All-Star MVP, and that's just a quarter of his accolades — but before anything else, he was a husband and a father.
On Sunday (January 26), the former Los Angeles Laker's life was cut short after his helicopter crashed in Calabasas, CA, killing all nine passengers on board, including the basketball player's 13-year-old daughter Gianna Bryant.
In the wake of the tragedy, a December 2018 interview the late legend did with Alex Rodriguez for Barstool Sports podcast "The Corp with A-Rod and Big Cat," has resurfaced where Kobe explained why he chose to often travel via helicopter. “Traffic started getting really, really bad,” Kobe said of his days heading to and from basketball practice from his home in Orange County. “And I was sitting in traffic and I wound up missing like a school play, because I was sitting in traffic. … I had to figure out a way where I could still train and focus on the craft but still not compromise family time.”
He continued, “So that’s when I looked into helicopters, to be able to get down and back in 15 minutes and that’s when it started.”
While Kobe said his wife Vanessa Bryant told him she would pick up their children — daughters Natalia, 17, Gianna, Bianka, 3, and Capri, 7 months — from school, he insisted, saying, “I want to do that.”
“You have like road trips and times where you don’t see your kids," Kobe explained. "So every chance I get to see them, to spend time with them, even if it’s 20 minutes in the car.”
Following news of Kobe and Gigi's passing, A-Rod wrote a heartfelt message to his late friend and the entire Bryant family.
"My heart hurts so much right now. I still can't wrap my head around this. How can it be?" the baseball legend wrote. "I learned so much from Kobe Bryant. He was naturally gifted, but had a passion for basketball like no one else I've ever seen. His work ethic was impeccable and his stress on mastering the fundamentals is what elevated him to the player he was. I've never met anyone more focused with a myopic approach. He didn't pursue approval, affirmation or adulation. He pursued excellence and process. He followed my career and would often call to help with my health, daily routine ... and would even chime in about hitting techniques. He was a role model to me, and millions around the world."
Alex continued, "We met as teenagers. We followed similar paths. We went from high school to the pros and our baby girls grew up together. People don't know this, but he was my secret coach. He pushed me and motivated me, especially toward the end of my career when I needed him most. He was always there. Even after our playing days, he was there for me. He attended @Jlo's last show in Vegas. He appeared on TheCorp podcast."
The retired athlete went on to recall his last visit with Kobe, writing, "I last saw him a few months ago. I will remember what he told me about how much he loved Vanessa and his girls, and that he continued to say no to 99 percent of offers, choosing instead to spend as much time with his family as possible. I will remember his greatness. I will remember his guidance. I will remember his friendship. I will remember that he made me a better person."
Alex concluded his tribute remembering Gianna. "His 13-year-old daughter Gianna was following in her Dad’s footsteps. She was kind, smart, caring and going to be a star," he shared. "Rest in peace, Kobe. Rest in peace, GiGi. My heart and prayers go out to the Bryant family and the passengers’ families."
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