INDIANAPOLIS–Kobe Bryant is being remembered as one of the worthiest opponents of the Indiana Pacers during their 2000 loss in the NBA playoffs. Bryant died Sunday in a helicopter crash in California, along with everyone else on board.
“He was a tremendous player, arguably the best player of his generation,” said Pacers radio play-by-play announcer Mark Boyle. “That was a situation where he and his team and his performance had a direct impact on our state.”
Boyle said the Pacers took a big sting from Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal, losing the series because of some of Bryant’s work in overtime in game 4, with the Pacers trailing two games to one.
“That was the end of a five or six-year run where the Pacers seemingly had a chance to get to the finals every year and they had been beaten in the finals by the Knicks and the Magic and the Bulls and they had finally broken through. Bryant and O’Neal in the end were just too much for the Pacers.”
Boyle’s reflection on Bryant’s career is that he was driven, as he says the best often are.
“It wasn’t just that he was a great player, which he clearly was. But, it was that he had such a passion for what he was doing,” he said. “You can always tell the really great players. Jordan had this. Bryant had it. They come back every year with something new in their game, even though they were arguably already the best player in their sport.”
“You could just tell from the way others interacted with him, competed against him and talked about him that he was a player that was certainly revered by many, but admired by all.”
Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay tweeted his condolences.
“Our hearts and prayers are with the family of Kobe Bryant and those who tragically lost their lives today. Kobe’s accomplishments will live forever. But more importantly, he was a father, husband, and friend who made a difference in the lives of so many. He will be greatly missed,” he said.
Brian Shaw, a former Pacers assistant coach, who was also a backup to Bryant as a player in the late 90s and early 2000s, spoke about Bryant on NBA TV Sunday, pointing out that Bryant spoke fluent Italian and Spanish and was popular overseas.
“For those Kobe fans that are out there that are feeling like I feel right now, just try and think of all the joy that he brought you, making the highlights that you remember.”
Bryant was 41.
PHOTO: CNN Newsource