Luke Walton reflects on loss of former teammate, friend Kobe Bryant

“Shock, denial … “

Luke Walton, like the rest of the world, felt the emotions when he found out Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gigi, died in a helicopter crash on Sunday.

“It’s been one of the harder times in my life,” the Kings’ head coach told media on Monday.

Before Walton was the Lakers’ head coach from 2016-19, he was a teammate of Kobe’s from 2003-12. 

“Kobe was a friend, a teammate, most importantly, a father — I know that’s what was most important to him,” Walton said. 

“The basketball world, we lost one of our greats. I’m honored to be able to call myself his friend and his teammate and his brother and all those things that came with those years we spent together.”

But Walton still needs to be a coach to the Kings players, and he admits he talks to the team about the loss of the 18-time NBA All-Star.

The Kings will play the Timberwolves Monday in Minnesota. 

“It’s hard to think about playing,” Walton said. “But I also laugh thinking about what Kobe would say and it goes back to his mentality: ‘So what, what’s next?’ No matter what he was looking down, no matter what the odds were against, he took on every single challenge — he would want us out here playing.”

[RELATED: Kobe soaked in final game against Kings]

“It’s life, ya know? Life is hard, and there is moments that challenge us, and what I’ve found is together we can get through those easier and more efficiently than we can alone,” Walton added.

“Whether you knew him or not, he was that type of guy, and he had that type of influence on the NBA world — everybody’s hurting.”

Luke Walton reflects on loss of former teammate, friend Kobe Bryant originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

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