Kevin Durant, like many of his peers, was profoundly inspired by Kobe Bryant.
On Tuesday, Durant spoke to reporters for the first time since Bryant's death in a helicopter crash in California on Sunday.
"It's hard to comprehend all of this," Durant said. "But just having that time and those moments with Kobe—he's always about pressing forward. At this time it's so hard. Just the amount of impact he had on all of us.
"It's hard to keep going right now. But as a basketball community, as a world as a whole, I know we're all just mourning and sticking together when it comes to this."
Durant emphasized how much of a role model Bryant was to him.
"He was somebody you looked up to," Durant said. "As a high schooler not knowing much outside of just playing basketball then getting to the league and getting to know the person and the man. Everything that comes with it. Kobe Bryant was just a joy to be around.
"As a competitor, you hated playing against him. As somebody that admired him, you just loved being in his presence. As a young hooper, he just meant the world to us. As a kid growing up in Maryland, I felt like I knew him close my whole life."
Since the NBA legend's tragic death, the entire basketball community and beyond has paid tribute.
LeBron James, who passed Bryant for third on the all-time scoring list on Saturday, paid tribute to him on Instagram on Monday night. The two had just spoken the morning of Bryant's sudden death.
"I'm Not Ready but here I go. Man I sitting here trying to write something for this post but every time I try I begin crying again just thinking about you, niece Gigi and the friendship/bond/brotherhood we had!" James wrote in an Instagram post showing photos of them together. "I literally just heard your voice Sunday morning before I left Philly to head back to LA. Didn’t think for one bit in a million years that would be the last conversation we'd have. WTF!! I'm heartbroken and devastated my brother!!"
Durant had said in 2015 that he "wanted to be like" Bryant. Countless others have reiterated that perspective in the previous few days.
"One of the greatest players to ever touch the floor," Durant said. "It was different knowing that he was coming at us. And it made us all better. It elevated everybody."
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