Nicholson shared a heartfelt tribute to the Lakers legend in an interview with CBS Los Angeles. “My reaction is the same as almost all of L.A.,” said the actor. “Where we think everything’s solid, there’s a big hole in the wall. I was used to seeing and talking to Kobe that — it kills you. It’s just a terrible event.”
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The Academy Award-winning actor also recalled the first time he met Bryant. “I teased him…and I offered him a basketball and asked him if he wanted me to autograph it for him,” Nicholson said of the encounter at Madison Square Garden. “He looked at me like I was crazy.” An avid Lakers fan, Nicholson was often spotted cheering on Bryant from his courtside seats at the Staples Center. “I sat right behind his jump shot on the left hand side,” he recalled. “I can see him going up and I can tell the first instant if it’s going in.”
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On Sunday, Bryant, who was just 41, died alongside his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others in a helicopter crash, according to Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva.
Nicholson wasn’t the only celebrity paying tribute to the sports star. The Grammy Awards were sprinkled with warm messages to Bryant’s family, while many stars of the sports and entertainment worlds have also shown their love on social media, including former teammate Shaquille O’Neal, Jimmy Kimmel and Barack Obama.
“I remember the totality of how great a player he was,” said Nicholson. “We’ll think of him all the time and we’ll miss him.”
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