NBC Sports

Steph doesn't know if Kobe's tragic death will ever sink in

NBC Sports
Steph Curry and Kobe hugging

Stephen Curry admits that even now, 16 months after the tragic death of Kobe Bryant, he still struggles to cope with the reality.

“I don’t know when, if ever, it will sink in that he’s not here,” Curry said Saturday, hours before Bryant, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett and six others would be enshrined into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

“But any moment that we have celebrate him and go back in the past and relive some of those moments that he accomplished on and off the court,” Curry added, “it always stops you in your tracks.”

Curry has to know he is not alone. Kobe’s impact is as broad as any athlete in the 21st century because the Lakers legend was a product not only of magnificent gifts and superior skill but also a mentality that transcends basketball.

The reverence toward Kobe is visible in other sports, too. Former Dodgers outfielder Joc Pederson, now with Cubs, switched to No. 24 this season. To honor Kobe.

Cornerback Darius Slay of the NFL Philadelphia Eagles changed his number from 23 to 24 for the 2020 season to honor Kobe, who wore No. 24 in his last 10 NBA seasons. The NFL for 2021 changed its rules to allow defensive backs to wear Nos. 1-49, so Carolina Panthers rookie Jaycee Horn – the eighth overall pick in the draft – announced last week that he will wear No. 8 to honor Kobe, who wore that number in his first 10 seasons.

In the days after Kobe, his daughter Gianna and seven others, including the pilot, were killed in a helicopter crash in Southern California, about a dozen NBA players – including Spencer Dinwiddie, Markieff Morris and Mason Plumlee – wearing Nos. 8 and 24 requested and received permission to wear different numbers.


Those numbers belong to Kobe, now and maybe forever.

“It’s still surreal to celebrate his career and impact and major accomplishment, the milestone of being selected into the Hall of fame, which was a foregone conclusion,” Curry said.

“But any opportunity to go and watch a highlight or watch an interview he did or remember where you were when you were watching a game, those types of moments, they still mean everything in terms of understanding the history of basketball and understanding his impact on the game.”

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Bryant’s widow, Vanessa, and eldest daughter Natalia on Friday accepted the Hall of Fame blazer fitted for Kobe. Natalia actually wore it. 

“It’s such a deserved accomplishment,” Curry said. “It’s pretty awesome to see his wife and his daughter accepting the acknowledgement on his behalf. That means a lot to his family.

“Hearing the other guys, KG and Tim Duncan, who are in that class, talk about what Kobe meant to them as well is a testament to his impact through and through.”

It has been 475 days since Kobe Bryant left this earth and, still, if you drive through Los Angeles, there are visible memorials. Curry, in his prolonged grief, has plenty of company.

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