Published 7:59 pm Monday, January 27, 2020

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On Sunday morning, the world stood still as news broke out that NBA superstar Kobe Bryant and his teenage daughter were among nine killed in a helicopter crash.

Sunday evening, Andalusia High School graduate and Hall of Famer Robert Horry expressed his thoughts about the tragic event.

Horry won three of his seven NBA championships with Bryant as a teammate on the Los Angeles Lakers. When Bryant entered the NBA in 1996 as an 18-year-old, Horry played with him for the first seven seasons of the 18-time All-Star’s career, and they helped the Lakers win league championships in 2000, 2001 and 2002.

“The thing about Kobe Bryant, I remember when I got traded to the Lakers and there was all of this hype about this little 18-year-old kid that is a phenom,” Horry said. “I was like, ‘Whatever,’ and I got in practice and I remember one of the first plays I went to set a pick on him and he tried to run through the pick. I looked at him and said, ‘OK young fella’, I see you got some grit and some grind to you.’ From that moment on, you could see the maturation of this guy, the importance of being a great player, the importance of being a great teammate and him being a sponge. We use that term so much in basketball, but he literally learned from all of these guys and became one of the best basketball players ever and for this to happen to a great basketball player, a great father, a great human being, a guy who was just trying to expand himself beyond basketball, it’s a huge tragedy.”

Horry said that people grew up with Bryant.

“We grew up with Kobe and watched him grow in the league,” Horry said. “He had a chip on his shoulder. I remember a lot of times after games, people would be mad at Kobe because back then, you would bring beer in the locker room, but back then, you had Kobe, an 18-year-old, ‘Where’s the beer?’ ‘Well, we can’t have it because Kobe is in here,’ but Kobe turned into somebody who built up this armor around him saying that he would be the king of this team and kind of distance himself from the players.”

The former Alabama basketball standout reflected on Sunday about how he helped Bryant break into the NBA, remembering how he and other Los Angeles veterans showed the relentless youngster that it was OK to “enjoy basketball by having a little fun at times.”

Horry said he taught Bryant how to play the card game spades.

“He kept losing,” the former Andalusia High school star said. “But you know Kobe. ‘Let’s play again. Let’s play again. Let’s play again.’ Until he finally got it. It’s just little moments like that where you could see that he was trying to break into the mold to get to know older guys and I think some people don’t understand that when you have an 18-year-old come into a team with a bunch of 28 and 30-year-olds going out, it was kind of hard for him to mix with those guys, but eventually, the shell was broken and he became more of a teammate. I just wish I was a part of that Kobe Bryant.”