News of Kobe Bryant’s sudden death rocked the NBA, and some players are taking it particularly hard.
And for one player, Bryant’s death is hitting pretty close to home.
Kawhi Leonard has a few interesting connections to Sunday’s deadly helicopter crash in Calabasas, Calif. that killed nine people, including Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna. Like Bryant, Leonard frequently traveled by helicopter, an idea Bryant sold to him when Leonard sought advice about his eventual return to the Los Angeles area, according to ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk.
The Los Angeles Clippers star said Bryant’s travel methods are the same ones he used to travel to his home in San Diego and back. Bryant and Leonard frequently utilized the same pilot, Ara Zobayan, who also died in the crash.
“Great guy. Super nice. He was one of the best pilots,” Leonard told reporters Wednesday, per Youngmisuk. “That is a guy who you ask for to fly you from city to city. It’s just surreal still. … He will drop me off and say he is about to go pick up Kobe, (and) Kobe said hello. Or he’ll just be like, ‘I just dropped Kobe off, and he said hello.’ Vice versa. So, it’s a crazy interaction. He’s a good dude, and I’m sorry for everybody.”
Leonard hasn’t had a chance to mull over his own helicopter use in wake of the accident. Though difficult, he’s still trying to put the Bryants’ deaths into perspective.
“It’s sad every day,” Leonard said. “You know, you kind of feel like life isn’t real once you start seeing these little monuments or the pictures that people are putting up with his face and the year he was born and the year he died. It doesn’t seem real. It just seems like you’re in a movie or something. And you know, you just want to wake up. So it’s still surreal to me. It’s not all come together yet.”
Thumbnail photo via Derick E. Hingle/USA TODAY Sports Images