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It's still hard to fathom that the sports world and the world at large is without the presence of Kobe Bryant. Of course the eight other victims, including Bryants 13-year old daughter Gianna, should be remembered and their families should be in everyone's thoughts and prayers as well.

For Kyrie Irving, the basketball legend's death hit especially hard. Bryant served as Irving's mentor throughout much of his career. When asked what active player Bryant said he remains closest with, the answer wasn't LeBron James, Kawahi Leonard or Kevin Durant, but Irving himself. 

After overcoming a 3-1 deficit to the 73-9 record-setting Warriors squad in the 2016 NBA Finals to captured the Cleveland Cavaliers first ever NBA Championship, it was Bryant and his daughter Gianna whom Irving Facetimed live in the postgame locker room celebration to share the moment with him. Irving thanked him for his guidance and support throughout that run. 

For those that want to poke and prod at Irving's perceived lack of toughness or fragile mental frame of mind, there shouldn't be a single person that can criticize Irving for missing Sunday's game at Madison Square Garden. 

Upon signing with the Nets, Irving admitted that his grandfather's death hit him especially hard and was a contributing factor for why basketball wasn't at the forefront of his mind during his time in Boston. Death is never easy to deal with, whether it's friends, family or role models we may have looked up to, but never met. For Irving, this was a personal situation that impacted him on a deep level. 

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As a journalist that has covered MLB, NBA and the NFL over the past decade, I never had the opportunity to meet or interview Kobe. I didn't know him on a personal level, but watched him from afar. HIs basketball ability was awe-inspiring. As a basketball player, I'd force myself to stay up late for his West Coast games to see him dominate the competition and sink clutch four quarter baskets. 

Upon reflection, Bryant's reach went beyond the sport of basketball. It was his relentless pursuit of perfection and unwillingness to accept anything less than 100 percent from his teammates that separated him from even some of the game's best players. His passion and dedication for the game jumped off the screen.

For someone who enjoyed playing basketball growing up, the thought that one of the game's all-time legends and iconic players is no longer with us is just unfathomable. 

For Irving, one of the NBA's most talented and popular players, the loss has to be incredibly painful. Watching NBA teams take 24-second shot clock violations in honor of Kobe and Gianna's favorite player Trae Young take a 8-second backcourt violation to pay homage to him is touching as well. 

A legend, gone too soon, Kobe Bryant, 41, will be remembered forever.