A young Kobe Bryant wanted to be immortalized and “die young,” retired former NBA star Tracy McGrady said in an interview Monday.
McGrady, who has since become an ESPN NBA analyst, was a friend of Bryant’s and reflected on playing with him and how he turned into a family man post-career on an episode of “The Jump.”
“This sounds crazy, but Kobe spoke this, he spoke this. He used to say all the time, ‘I want to die young. I want to be immortalized and, you know, have my career be better than Michael Jordan and I want to die young,’” McGrady told the show’s host Rachel Nichols. “And I just thought he was just so crazy for saying that.”
Nichols noted that Bryant’s words were “totally in line with young Kobe” but as Bryant grew older he wanted to be around for his family and his children.
McGrady said he learned of Bryant’s death while dancing with his daughter at his wife’s event.
“They came and told me the news and I just couldn’t believe it,” he said. “Just like everybody else. I’m devastated.”
McGrady, 40, and Bryant, 41, were both players who jumped to the NBA from high school. Bryant was selected with the No. 13 pick of the 1996 draft while McGrady was chosen by the Toronto Raptors with the No. 9 pick.
Bryant, his daughter and seven others were among the victims in a helicopter crash in California on Sunday. The news resonated across the sporting world.
The NBA announced that the Lakers’ next game would be postponed as the organization mourned the loss of Bryant and his daughter.