Bryant died on Sunday, January 26 in a helicopter crash. His daughter, Gianna “Gigi” Bryant was also on board, as well as several of her basketball teammates, their families and her basketball coach. There were nine total fatalities from the incident. Upon the NBA icon’s sudden death, several athletes and friends of Bryant’s left touching messages on their social media accounts. Odom was one of the first athletes to do so and posted a series of photos of him and Bryant together during their time playing for the Los Angeles Lakers. According to People, Bryant and Odom played alongside each other from 2004-2011, and both had spoken fondly of each other before Bryant’s death.
The photos Odom posted consist of the two holding each other on the court while in uniform and embracing each other during games. Odom also has several pictures from major championship games he and Bryant won together throughout their basketball careers.
The touching message from Odom shows the Darkness to Light author reflecting on his friendship with Bryant. He shared the intensity of this particular loss, as well as what Bryant meant to him both on and off the basketball court, including the fact that Bryant was the one who taught him to sign his own checks early in his career. Odom also said that through all of the grief he has endured in his life, losing his friend and teammate has been one of his most painful to date.
“He taught me so many things in life that were necessary on and off the court. On the court, he taught me how to carve out defenses and how to take my time. How to make winning my ultimate goal,” Odom wrote. “I’ve suffered a lot of loss but the only loss I can compare this to is when I lost my son. Even though our relationship wasn’t father/son, it was more like him being a teacher and me being his brother.”
Odom also used the moment to reflect on his own mortality. The former NBA star, who almost lost his own life back in 2015 while in a coma, said that he would’ve switched places with Bryant.
“When I went through that Coma situation if God would have come to me and said we would take me and spare Kobe I would have rather that happened,” Odom admitted.
Other prominent sports figures, including Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Derek Jeter and Shaquille O’Neal, have also posted touching tributes to Bryant.