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Kobe Bryant's career will be remembered for the fierce competition he had with other players. Yet, one of his most formidable opponents on the court, Tracy McGrady, was actually his close friend whenever they weren't playing against each other. This led McGrady to sit down with ESPN's The Jump to talk about his relationship with the late NBA icon.
"I'm devastated, just like everybody else," an emotional McGrady said during the interview.
While detailing the hurt he feels from his friend's passing, McGrady revealed that Kobe talked about dying young before he became a father.
"This sounds crazy," McGrady said. "But Kobe spoke this. ... He used to say all the time, 'I want to die young.' ... 'I want to be immortalized. I want to have my career be better than Michael Jordan's and I wanna die young.' And I just thought that he was just so crazy for saying that."
McGrady came into the NBA a year after Kobe. Like Bryant, McGrady was drafted straight out of high school. This put the two shooting guards in direct conversation with each other. They battled for accolades prior to McGrady's series of injuries. During the 2002-2003 season, the pair jockeyed for the scoring title with McGrady's 32.1 points per game edging out Kobe's 30 points per game. Yet even prior to this, Kobe and Tracy were two high school phenoms that connected through their love for basketball.
"I used to stay at his house," McGrady remembered. "With [his mom] Pam, [dad] Joe, [sisters] Sharia and Shaya. I just remember the minute walking through those doors it was an instant bond."
They grew apart during their respective quests for greatness. But, having kids, Tracy and Kobe found themselves being good friends again.
"We go play our careers and here we are. We have kids and we're reunited through AAU basketball because of our kids," McGrady continued. "Going out to watch his kids practice. Playing these games and him watching my kids play was like the greatest thing. I would sit there and watch Gigi... She was special, man. She was built like Kobe her mannerism, everything. Just to watch her play was like watching a young Kobe. She had a fadeaway at 13-years-old."
Matt Barnes and Robert Horry, Kobe's former Lakers teammates, also stopped by ESPN's The Jump to remember Kobe.
Kobe's presence didn't just resonate with basketball fans. For the people of Los Angeles, he was an important figure to the entire city. Another LA legend, Ice Cube, explained to ESPN how Kobe's death impacted him. Cube explained how he texted Kobe after hearing the news to see if he had really passed.
"[I wanted] to see if he would hit me back," Ice Cube said. "When I didn't get it back I didn't immediately start to worry because he's Kobe and he'll always get back sooner or later. ... I just tossed and turned all night thinking about Vanessa and his daughters and his mother and father and sisters ... Just everyone in his immediate life that loved him and what they lost. I know what we lost as fans. Me personally, I don't have too many heroes that's younger than me and that was one of them."
The UConn Huskies women's basketball team also took to social media to pay their respects to Gianna and Kobe.
Gianna was looking forward to playing for them.
Kobe and Gianna meant a lot to our program. Our thoughts are with the Bryant family.— UConn Women's Hoops (@UConnWBB) January 26, 2020
Mamba Mentality will live on forever, but they are deeply missed. 💙 pic.twitter.com/4Ib96yFxgg