NEW ORLEANS — Kobe Bryant's drive and historic NBA career inspired athletes all over the world, including here in New Orleans.
When the news broke that Bryant died in a helicopter crash on Sunday, Pelicans and Saints players and coaches honored the late NBA star.
Drew Brees said that he only met Kobe Bryant once, but always hoped he'd get to spend more time with him.
"I had so much respect for him as a competitor," Brees said. "I know he inspired so many people in so many ways. One of the great competitors of any generation, not just in sports, but the way he approached a lot of things."
Zion Williamson never had the chance to meet Kobe Bryant during his young NBA career, but he idolized the Lakers' star guard growing up.
"I had both jerseys 8 and 24 growing up, I studied his footwork game because I respected his," Williamson said. "His footwork was such a big part of his game, allowed him to get to his spots. The fade away … as easy as it looked, as he makes it look, it's one of the hardest things to do."
Coach Alvin Gentry
Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry spoke before their Sunday night game, saying that word of Kobe's death hit him hard.
"He was all about winning championships," Gentry said. "The personal accolades and numbers didn’t mean anything to him if you didn’t win championships."
Gentry went on to tell the story of Kobe's last game in New Orleans. After the game, Gentry said Kobe Bryant stayed in the locker room signing everything everybody brought to him, including something for the coach himself.
Saints legend Steve Gleason said that Kobe's death is a reminder to "Live triumphantly, in the midst of tragedy."
Saints pass rusher Cam Jordan reference Kobe Bryant's "Mamba Mentality" after the Pro Bowl while talking about how he grew up watching the Black Mamba beat his hometown Suns.
"Kobe the icon, Kobe the mamba mentality, Kobe everything that we grew up watching. I'm an Arizona kid, I've been seeing Kobe tax the Suns all my life," Jordan said. "You watch him go from 8 to 24 and see everything he's ever done ... hes going to be a legend until the end of my days."
Saints tight end Jared Cook focused on his impact off the court.
"Kobe's done so much for the world, he's done so much for the game of basketball and just other sports in general," he said. Just teaching kids how to have a strong mental focus and mental purpose towards your game and life in general."
Saints left tackle Terron Armstead said Kobe Bryant's sudden death is a reminder to live life without regrets.
"It's a reminder of how fragile life is and how precious it is," Armstead said. "It's just one of them things that makes you reflect and think about living life to the fullest while you can and doing the most and living with no regrets enjoying these times and these experiences"
Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter were among the nine deaths in a Southern California helicopter crash.
The Los Angeles County Fire Department says the crash occurred in Calabasas, around 9:47 a.m. about 30 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles. Los Angeles County fire officials said there were no survivors when the helicopter crashed.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said a flight manifest on the helicopter indicated there were nine people on the helicopter when it went down.
Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna were among those killed. According to ESPN, the two were traveling to a basketball game with another player and parent when the crash happened.