Kyrie Irving was one of the budding stars that Kobe Bryant took under his wing. Losing a mentor hit Irving hard, but he was able to find solace in knowing that Bryant's death has created a sense of unity.
"Out there on the court, I am not the only one that is hurting," Irving told ESPN following the Nets' victory over the Pistons. "I don't want to make this about me and just our relationship because we all shared something really, really strong with him."
Irving met Kobe at Team USA's minicamp for the 2012 Summer Olympics. During the camp, a video surfaced of Kyrie telling Kobe that he could beat him in a game of one-on-one. The clip went viral when it first appeared on the internet, and the confidence that Irving displayed led Bryant to want to offer him guidance.
Their relationship grew, with Kobe giving Kyrie advice that propelled him into superstardom. Their bond was so tight that Irving FaceTimed Kobe from the locker room after winning his first NBA championship.
Irving admits that he might not have been ready for all of Kobe's wisdom at his young age. Yet he feels like Kobe came into his life at the perfect time.
"When the student is ready, the teacher will appear," Irving said to ESPN. "I had that mentorship relationship with him, where I was able to ask him almost anything. You know no matter how nervous I was or how fearful I was, he was just easy to approach with those type of questions about what goes on in the day-in and day-out basis of chasing something that's bigger than yourself and when you're trying to leave a legacy or something of a mark on a game."
Brooklyn's game against Detroit was Irving's first contest since Bryant's death. The Nets had a game against the Knicks the day of the tragic accident, but Irving decided to sit out to properly grieve the loss of his friend.