Basketball Hall of Famer Tracy McGrady shared his feelings about the late Kobe and Gigi Bryant on Monday’s (January 27) episode of ESPN’s The Jump, hosted by Rachel Nichols.
A tearful McGrady said he was “devastated” when he heard the news.
He was having a dance with his daughter at an event for his wife when the news was relayed to him, and like everyone else, he was in disbelief.
“They came and told me the news and I just couldn’t believe it,” McGrady said. “Just like everybody else, but … I’m devastated.”
McGrady was one of the very few people who could understand what Bryant went through early in his career.
Bryant entered the league in 1996 straight out of high school, and McGrady came in the following year, also straight from high school.
That commonality bonded the young phenoms.
When McGrady first entered the league, he lived with Bryant and Bryant’s parents, Joe and Pam.
Their relationship waned later in their careers as Bryant was singularly focused on pursuing championships and greatness, according to McGrady.
But as they got older in recent years, they began reconnecting over another commonality. Fatherhood.
McGrady and Bryant would see each other at AAU games, coaching their kids. Bryant would come out to watch McGrady’s kids and vice versa.
In another heart-wrenching moment, McGrady recalls a time he flew out to watch Gigi and what he told her before an AAU game.
“I’d go up to Gigi and give her a hug and say, ‘Go out there and kill!’ She’d say, ‘Don’t worry about that, Uncle Mac. I got this!’”
McGrady goes on to say Gigi was special. “She was built like Kobe. Her mannerisms, everything. Just to watch her play was like watching a young Kobe.”
McGrady was at a recent tournament watching Gigi, and he spent time talking with Vanessa Bryant and with the other three children.
No doubt McGrady and his wife, Clarenda, will be there for Vanessa and the three surviving children as they deal with this unimaginable tragedy.
Kobe Bryant, 41, died Sunday morning along with his 13-year-old daughter, Gigi, and seven others when his helicopter crashed in Calabasas on their way to a youth basketball tournament.
(Photo: Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)