Years before his passing, Lakers icon Kobe Bryant shared his thoughts on death.
The year that he retired from pro basketball, Bryant noted that he had a “comfortable” relationship with death.
He told The Ringer in 2016, “It’s an understanding. You can’t have life without death. Can’t have light without the dark. So it’s an acceptance of that.”
“When it came time to decide whether or not I should retire, [it was] really an acceptance of that mortality that all athletes face,” Bryant continued. “And if you combat it, you’ll always have that inner struggle within yourself… So… I’m comfortable with it.”
When asked what he thinks will happen once he dies, Kobe responded, “I don’t know. But I’ll know when I die.”
He emphasized, “To me, it’s that simple. I don’t know. We’ll see.”
On Sunday, Bryant, 41, and his daughter Gianna, 13, lost their lives in a helicopter crash near Los Angeles.
Bryant was known for traveling via helicopter while he was playing for the Lakers. In 2018, he told Alex Rodriguez during a podcast, “Traffic started getting really, really bad. And I was sitting in traffic and I wound up missing, like, a school play, because I was sitting in traffic… I had to figure out a way where I could still train and focus on the craft, but still not compromise family time.”
He went on, "So that’s when I looked into helicopters, to be able to get down and back in 15 minutes, and that’s when it started… You have, like, road trips and times where you don’t see your kids… So every chance I get to see them, to spend time with them, even if it’s 20 minutes in the car..."
Kurt Deetz, who flew Kobe from 2014-2016, opened up about their time together on the same helicopter that went down. He told the Los Angeles Times, “It was always, ‘Hey,’ thumbs-up, or sometimes nothing at all. He kept to himself. He would get in, get out, and that was it. There was no hugging, no backslapping — he was very professional.”
While Kobe was a “very private guy,” Deetz remembered the time when Kobe acknowledged his son on a trip to downtown Los Angeles. He said, “He noticed my son there and he said, ‘Hey, little man.’ My son and I remembered that today.”
Deetz described Kobe’s helicopter as “limo-esque” and well-maintained.
An investigation is currently underway on what caused the crash.