SAN DIEGO — San Diegans who met Kobe Bryant said he was just a regular guy off the court. Many shared memories of the NBA star after news of his death came Sunday.Former News 8 Sportscaster Ted Leitner
“Very approachable,” said Brad Holland.
Holland played for the Los Angeles Lakers before Kobe was on the team, but later met him at the University of San Diego where Holland coached and the Lakers trained. Holland says Kobe led by example.
“He practiced like ‘I'm going play in a game’ and of course, when you do that - that spreads through your team. 'Here's our best player and he's working this hard. I better be,'” Holland said.
He said he was also impressed by Kobe's fearlessness. He was never afraid to take the big shots. Holland appreciated that Kobe never rested on his past accomplishments and always knew he could improve.
“He was never comfortable with, ‘Oh, I'm great. I don't need to work hard,’" he said. "He amped it up almost every year in terms of his diet, training regimen, his discipline to be the greatest player in history.”
Kobe visited San Diego often as a player, but it turns out he was here as a little kid too. Former News 8 Sportscaster Ted Leitner was friends with Kobe's dad, Joe and remembers the day Joe was traded to the then San Diego Clippers in 1979. Kobe was about 1 year old at the time.
“Here comes Joe Bryant acquired by the San Diego Clippers and I said, 'this is wonderful' and we're talking about his little boy - this little boy, Kobe,” Leitner said.
But Ted's friendship with Joe led to an awkward exchange with Kobe the first time he met him as a pro basketball player. Ted didn't realize that Kobe and his dad weren't on speaking terms at that time.
“I'm thinking I have this inside track here. I’m going to get Kobe for Channel 8," said Leitner. "I say, ‘Kobe I'm an old friend of your dad.’ He says, ‘yeah right’ and keeps on walking.”
Fortunately, Kobe and his dad later made up and had a great relationship. Kobe's death is a sad reminder that life is too short for disagreements.