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Russell Westbrook: ‘I am devastated about the passing of Kobe & Gigi, on every level’

Russell Westbrook is a Southern California kid — born in Long Beach, Leuzinger high school, then UCLA.

That means he grew up watching Kobe Bryant up close. Like other Los Angeles area high school ballers of his generation — including James Harden — Kobe was a massive influence.

Kobe’s tragic death in a helicopter crash — along with his daughter Gianna and seven others — hit Westbrook hard. Saturday he made his first public statements on Kobe’s passing, turning to Instagram.

Westbrook, like a lot of people, is trying to process all of this while moving on with his life. That includes the current Lakers. Friday night, with a series of pregame tributes, the Lakers played a basketball game for the first time since the accident. It was cathartic and the start of a healing process.

Westbrook is looking for that as well.