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Jack Nicholson remembers the time he first met Kobe Bryant in heartfelt tribute


Jack Nicholson has paid tribute to Kobe Bryant after discovering the tragic news of the iconic basketball player’s death.

Bryant, revered by many as one of the greatest basketball players of all time, died alongside his daughter, Gianna, 13, in a tragic helicopter crash in Los Angeles on January 26th, 2020. Bryant and his daughter died alongside seven other people who were on board the aircraft.

“The aircraft went down in a remote field off Las Virgenes around 10:00 this morning. Nobody on the ground was hurt,” a statement from the City of Calabasas confirmed. Foggy weather conditions caused issues during the flight as it crashed and burst into flames 30 miles north-west of downtown Los Angeles.

“We received a call just before 10am this morning of an aircraft down in the Malibu area, right off of Las Vergenes, essentially Calabasas,” Tony Imbrenda of the Los Angeles county fire department said of the incident. “Some folks were out here mountain biking this morning, they saw an aircraft in distress, they went down into the hillside. This was a helicopter, it’s been confirmed it was an S-76 Sikorsky helicopter and unfortunately there were no survivors.”

While the Los Angeles county fire department were initially keen to keep specific names of the casualties private, the news broke through showbiz website TMZ that Bryant was on board. Adam Silver, the NBA commissioner, then confirmed the news in a statement. “The NBA family is devastated by the tragic passing of Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna,” it reads.

HE added: “For 20 seasons, Kobe showed us what is possible when remarkable talent blends with an absolute devotion to winning. He was one of the most extraordinary players in the history of our game with accomplishments that are legendary: five NBA championships, an NBA MVP award, 18 NBA All-Star selections, and two Olympic gold medals. But he will be remembered most for inspiring people around the world to pick up a basketball and compete to the very best of their ability.

“He was generous with the wisdom he acquired and saw it as his mission to share it with future generations of players, taking special delight in passing down his love of the game to Gianna.”

Now, as tributes continue to pour in for the retired basketball player, Jack Nicholson has been reminiscing about the moment he first met Bryant during what was his first all-star game back in 1998. “I teased him the first time we met. I offered him a basketball and asked him if he wanted me to autograph it for him,” Nicholson said. “He looked at me like I was crazy.”

Nicholson added: “My reaction is the same as almost all of LA,” he said when discovering the tragic news. “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… I sat right behind his jump shot on the left-hand side.

“I can see him going up and I can tell the first instant if it’s going in. We’ll think of him all the time and we’ll miss him. He was just one of those touched people.”

See footage of their first meeting, below.

[MORE] – Revisit ‘Dear Basketball’, Kobe Bryant’s Oscar-winning animated short film