Larry Brown: Kobe's Death Reminds Me Of JFK Assassination

The world seemed to stop Sunday in a way that, for Larry Brown, was eerily similar to 1963

Zach Gelb
January 28, 2020 - 11:43 am
Tyronn Lue Kobe Bryant

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Coaching legend Larry Brown dropped by CBS Sports Radio to reflect on the life and career of Kobe Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, Calif., on Sunday. The crash claimed nine lives, including that of Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter, Gianna.

Brown, 79, remains at a loss.

“I’ve been trying to figure out things to say about Kobe and try to figure out why something like this has to happen,” Brown said on The Zach Gelb Show. “I’m not doing a very good job of it.”

Brown has coached – or coached against – many of the greatest players in basketball history, including Bryant. He knew Bryant well, and to see a 41-year-old lose his life while bonding with his daughter was, and is, heartbreaking.

“It just blew me away,” Brown said. “It made me feel so very, very sad because he was so much more than we can ever imagine. I’ve known Kobe a while. I was supposed to coach him on the 2004 Olympic team and it didn’t work out, but speaking to him, I knew how much it meant to him to represent our country. But to see the outpouring of feelings for this guy – not only in our country, but all over the world . . . it’s kind of incredible.”

Bryant was an ambassador for basketball, sure, but his legacy extends beyond the game. 

“I remember when President Kennedy died, I was on my way from Akron, Ohio, to North Carolina driving,” Brown said. “I saw people going in churches and kept listening on the radio. The same thing [Sunday] happened, and we’re talking about a basketball player. It was incredible.”

Bryant, especially early in his career, didn’t always see eye-to-eye with teammates – or coaches. But coaches, Brown said, would do anything to have a player like Bryant.

“He was a coaches’ dream,” Brown said. “He might have challenged you because he was so bright. A lot of people thought maybe he was selfish. He just had this will to win. I had a lot of people tell me Allen [Iverson] was selfish. No, everybody on our team knew that we needed Allen to score, and he had this will to win so bad, we dealt with it. I think that’s the way most people felt about Kobe. This will to win far exceeded anything that anybody else had.”