The untimely death of Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant continues to hit everyone hard, especially the man that drafted Bryant back in 1996, current Clippers executive Jerry West. West developed a special bond with Kobe during their time together in Los Angeles, as he watched a young Bryant blossom from a hard-headed teenager to a multi-time champion and proud family man. They remained close even as West moved on to other organizations.
"I had a special relationship with [Bryant]," West said. "No one knows the intimate talks I had with him. No one knows. Even people close to him, they don't know the conversations I had with him. They don't know the conversations I had with him when I was working in Memphis. We still communicated."
One memory that specifically sticks out to West is when he talked Bryant out of signing with the Clippers in the middle of his career due to friction within the Lakers organization.
"I remember when he was going to leave the Lakers, and I never really mentioned this to anyone," West said. "He was going to come and sign with the Clippers, whom I am now involved with as a consultant. And I told him, 'Kobe, under no circumstances can you do this.' And he was mad at everyone. At the Lakers, the owner, everyone else. I said, 'You can't go play with the Clippers. You can't play for that owner [Donald Sterling] -- period.' We had two conversations about it. And he supposedly made a commitment to the Clippers, and we talked [one] last time."
Needless to say, Bryant never signed with the Clippers and instead remained with the Lakers and went on to become one of the most decorated players in the storied franchise's history. West also tearfully recalled times that he spent with Kobe at his house, and the hunger for knowledge and growth that the young man who later became known as the "Black Mamba" possessed.
"The thing that probably is hardest for me is the times I spent with him when he was 17 years old at my house, constantly wanting me to go to the gym, watching him play in the summer league, and everyone was excited to see a young kid like that," West said. "Yes, and having dinners at my house. My son, Ryan, was his first best friend in town. He worked for the Lakers for a number of years.
"I think the thing that resonates with me the most is his incredible career. This a sad city right now, [because] of one person with one name: Kobe. You don't even have to mention his last name. To see the pictures of him with his daughter, sitting at games, hugging him, to get a Christmas card every year from him, to watch his incredible family grow and prosper, and now to see not one, not two, but three families gone. [It's] the saddest day of my life."
West remains the current NBA logo, but following Bryant's passing, a is circulating, and considering the reverence that West has for Bryant, and the fact that he doesn't want to be the logo anymore, it seems likely that West would be on board with the change.