Following a Nets practice on Tuesday, Kevin Durant took the time to speak to reporters and field questions about the death of Kobe Bryant. Unsurprisingly, one of the best players of this generation had a lot to say about one of the greatest players of all-time, but a lot of Durant's responses notably included memories of watching Bryant play even before he was drafted into the NBA in 2007.
"We all had our own personal relationship with [Kobe] no matter if we were close to him or far away," he told reporters. "As a kid growing up in Maryland and watching the Lakers so much I felt like I knew him close my whole life. We've seen him grow up. We've seen him retire and go into the second phase of life. It hurts to even just think about it."
But unlike most of those kids, Durant made it to the league and actually got a chance to learn from Bryant firsthand. The lessons the former Laker verbalized were short in nature, but that was because he mostly led by example, the Nets forward said. The main takeaway: put in the work and focus heavily on whatever your goals are. It's a lesson that Durant has clearly followed closely as evidenced by his two titles, two Finals MVPs, one regular-season MVP and his reputation as a top player in the NBA. He also learned a lot from someone he calls "a huge, huge ambassador for the game" with regards to overcoming an Achilles injury that's keeping him out this season, the same thing that got Kobe in 2013.
Some of the lessons that Kobe taught were done so on the court, with a wide-eyed young student of the game unfortunately on the other side of his competitive spirit. Durant points to his playoff matchup with the Lakers in 2010 as an example of this.
"When you were in his way from somewhere he wanted to get," the former Thunder player said. "You go from being a young player that he might talk to a bit during the game to an enemy almost. It was different knowing he was coming at us and it elevated everybody just knowing we had to be on point playing against an incredible talent like that."
What sticks out the most from all of Durant's comments about Kobe was, in Durant's perspective, he was incredibly open about giving helpful advice, no matter where on the talent totem pole someone was. The Nets forward said he'd see Kobe's arm around No. 1 option guys, role players and even guys who were in and out of the league. And if for some reason a player wasn't necessarily close, or didn't have much of a relationship, with Kobe, Durant points to the guard's whole body of life's work as a thing anyone can take lessons from.
"Lot of people say they didn't know him and I'm like you've seen Kobe in every situation," Durant said Tuesday. "From rapping, to winning championships, to having kids, to getting married, to getting injured on the floor, to crying on TV. You've seen everything from Kobe Bryant. He lived his life to the fullest and it was a joy to be born in '88 so I could catch Kobe in his prime."