Kobe Bryant began relying on helicopters to travel around the Los Angeles metropolitan area so he would have more time with his four daughters, he said in a December 2018 interview that has resurfaced in the wake of his death.
The basketball legend died at age 41 in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, along with eight other people on Sunday — including his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna.
While chatting with Alex Rodriguez for Barstool Sports podcast The Corp with A-Rod and Big Cat, Bryant said that he would often spend a lot of time stuck in traffic while heading to practice for the Los Angeles Lakers from his home in Orange County. Traffic impeded his routine of dropping off and picking up the girls — Natalia, 17, Gianna, Bianka, 3, and Capri, 7 months — from school before and after those practices, he said.
“Traffic started getting really, really bad,” said Bryant. “And I was sitting in traffic and I wound up missing like a school play, because I was sitting in traffic. … I had to figure out a way where I could still train and focus on the craft but still not compromise family time.”
He continued, “So that’s when I looked into helicopters, to be able to get down and back in 15 minutes and that’s when it started.”
Bryant said his wife Vanessa Bryant, 37, told him she would pick up their children from school, but he was adamant that “I want to do that.”
He told Rodgriguez, “You have like road trips and times where you don’t see your kids. … So every chance I get to see them, to spend time with them, even if it’s 20 minutes in the car.”
After news of Bryant’s death broke on Sunday, Rogriguez reflected on their friendship in a lengthy Instagram post.
“My heart hurts so much right now. I still can’t wrap my head around this,” Rodriguez wrote. “How can it be?”
He continued, “I learned so much from Kobe Bryant. He was naturally gifted, but had a passion for basketball like no one else I’ve ever seen. His work ethic was impeccable and his stress on mastering the fundamentals is what elevated him to the player he was. I’ve never met anyone more focused with a myopic approach. He didn’t pursue approval, affirmation or adulation. He pursued excellence and process. He followed my career and would often call to help with my health, daily routine … and would even chime in about hitting techniques. He was a role model to me, and millions around the world.”
Rodriguez also shared that the two met back when they were both teenagers, and supported one another for years — with Bryant even coming to cheer on Rodriguez’s fiancée Jennifer Lopez at her final Las Vegas show in 2018.
“We met as teenagers,” he recalled. “We followed similar paths. We went from high school to the pros and our baby girls grew up together. People don’t know this, but he was my secret coach. He pushed me and motivated me, especially toward the end of my career when I needed him most. He was always there. Even after our playing days, he was there for me. He attended @Jlo’s last show in Vegas. He appeared on TheCorp podcast.”