Tiger Woods learned that his friend and Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash on Sunday as the golfer walked off the 18th green and was informed by his caddie Joe LaCava.
TMZ was the first to report that Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, were among nine people on the helicopter when it went down in the hills of Calabasas and a fire broke out. The crash occurred before 10 a.m. local time, and the fire made it difficult for firefighters and emergency personnel to get to the aircraft. All the passengers died.
Bryant and his daughter were reportedly on their way to a travel basketball game with another player and parent.
"I didn't really understand why the people in the gallery were saying, 'Do it for Mamba' but now I understand," Woods said on CBS. "It's a shocker to everyone. Unbelievably sad and one of the more tragic days. For me, reality is just sinking in because I was told about five minutes ago."
Woods, a longtime Lakers fan, was asked what he admired most about Bryant.
"The fire," Woods said. "He burned so competitively hot. And the desire to win. He brought it each and every night on both ends of the floor. Not too many guys can say that throughout NBA history that he'd lock up on D and he was obviously dominant on the offensive side."
In 2016, Woods was playing golf with former New York Yankees star Derek Jeter when he referenced an "end of era thing" with Jeter and Bryant as the MLB and NBA star were retired.
“We all came in together," Woods said, according to the Associated Press. 'We all followed each other, watched each other. We all were in the prime of our career, doing stuff, winning championships, winning majors."
Bryant was an 18-time All-Star and 11-time All-NBA first-teamer, who led the Lakers to five NBA championships and scored 33,643 points in his 20-year NBA career. He retired after the 2015-16 season, having spent his entire career with the Lakers. The franchise retired his No. 8 and No. 24 jersey numbers in Dec. 2017. Woods tweeted a tribute thanking Bryant for the memories and championships when the Lakers star retired in 2016.
Bryant was among the athletes and celebrities to congratulate Woods on social media when he won his fifth Masters in 2019.
Woods finished six shots back of winner Marc Leishman at the Farmers Insurance Open. He will compete at the Genesis Invitational near Los Angeles next.
More Coverage of Kobe Bryant's Death:
- Kobe Bryant, Daughter Die in California Helicopter Crash
- For the Bryant Family, An Unimaginable Loss
- Kobe Bryant Left His Mark as a Generational Hero
- Sports World Reacts to Kobe Bryant's Sudden Death
- Remembering Kobe Bryant: Sports Illustrated Covers Through the Years
- Spurs-Raptors Open Game With Shot Clock Violations to Honor Kobe
- Shaq Reflects on Kobe's Passing: "There’s No Words to Express the Pain"