CAMDEN, N.J. — Sneaker choice is a big deal for NBA players. There’s Nike, Jordan, Under Armor, Adidas. If you go through the Sixers’ locker room, there’s a decent mix. While guys may stick to a brand, they don’t all necessarily stick with one style or a signature player shoe.

If you go to Tobias Harris’ locker, it’s the same every time: He’s wearing a version of the Nike Mambas.

The entire basketball world was shaken with the news that NBA great Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna were among nine people killed Sunday in a helicopter crash in Calabassas, California.

“He was my hero as a kid,” Harris said. “Hearing about him getting up at 6 in the morning to go work out and being the first in the gym, those things inspired me as a player coming up. I really try to model my work ethic after a guy like Kobe. It’s sad news to hear. … I heard the news and just really couldn’t believe it.”

Harris and Al Horford spoke, along with head coach Brett Brown and GM Elton Brand, at the team's practice facility Monday. 

A veteran in his ninth season, Harris’ career intersected with Bryant for a couple years. As a kid, Harris grew up rooting for those Lakers teams led by Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal. Even then, Harris said he was modeling his work ethic after Bryant's.

While he played against him a couple times during his career, Harris got an extraordinary opportunity during this past offseason.

 

This summer I got to go out to L.A. with a group of 15 guys and we were working out two-a-days,” Harris said. “During those two-a-days, I got a chance to talk to him, communicate with him and pick his brain on some different things basketball wise. That for me was like a dream come true, being able to get lessons from Kobe — that was once in a lifetime. And those dialogues, those communications, I’ll never forget.

Despite Bryant's untimely death, the league made the decision to carry out its slate of games Sunday. It was an emotional night around the NBA as teams and players honored the future Hall of Famer in a variety of ways.

The Sixers have a game to play Tuesday night against the Golden State Warriors. In the city where Bryant was born, it’s sure to be an emotional night. Harris said the team has discussed ways to honor Bryant but didn’t divulge them Monday.

While the emotions will still likely be raw, Harris will look to getting to play the game he loves as therapy.

A lot of emotions overweigh a lot of things,” Harris said. “Basketball has always been a peaceful place for me. Even being out there today and practicing, it was kind of relaxing to just get out there and compete, and I believe it was probably the exact same way for Kobe. Just to be able to go out there and be around teammates and use that competitive fire. … It’s always good to play the game and love the game on top of that stuff off the court.

Like so many other players already have, Harris will likely have a message and show of respect for Bryant on whichever style of Mambas he’ll be wearing.

And he’ll carry the memories of the past summer and the conversations he shared with Bryant.

“He was telling me he pulls for the Lakers heavy, but he was telling me, ‘Man, I love Philly. Philly’s my home,’ that’s what he told me. I knew he was watching the game, us vs. the Lakers [on Saturday], and I knew he was impressed with our play. … The whole timeline is surreal to me.”

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