January 29, 2020
Former teammates, coaches, rivals, friends, and contemporaries of Kobe Bryant have all been sharing their stories and memories over the last few days in the wake of the of the 41-year-old's tragic death in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California on Sunday.
On Tuesday night, TNT broadcasted a special show at center court of the Staples Center, the home arena of the Los Angeles Lakers, to remember Bryant with some of the people who knew him best. That group included Shaquille O’Neal, Dwyane Wade, Jerry West, Steve Nash, Kenny “The Jet” Smith, Candace Parker, Derek Fisher, Rick Fox, and last but not least, Charles Barkley.
The 56-year-old Barkley, who played for Sixers from 1984-1992, had not spoken publicly since the death of Bryant until Tuesday. The NBA Hall of Famer and 11-time All-Star released a statement on Sunday in response to the passing of Kobe.
Charles Barkley honors Kobe, Gigi, and all the families and friends of those killed in Sunday’s crash. pic.twitter.com/hOSoIs3B1Z— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) January 27, 2020
On TNT, Barkley revealed that he turned down every interview request because he “didn’t know what to say.”
“I needed some time to process,” Barkley said.
Barkley was leaving a movie Sunday when turned his phone back on and saw that he had more than 75 texts and 100 missed calls, he said. He initially thought that a huge trade in the NBA had gone down while he was offline.
But when he started reading his texts and the news headlines, Barkley “started crying”, even though he wasn’t particularly close with Bryant.
“I didn’t have that type of relationship with Kobe, but he was part of my 16 years in the NBA and my 19 years on TNT,” he said. “He was like one of my kids. And I just felt pain.”
“He was always cordial and friendly, but I’m not gonna get on TV and act like we hung out and had dinner and we were good friends,” Barkley continued.
You can watch the full clip of Barkley’s thoughts here.
Barkley called Bryant a “renaissance man” and “pretty special” for learning so many languages during his lifetime. Barkley also said he still owns a home in Lower Merion and lives there in the summer. Driving past Bryant’s alma mater, Lower Merion High School, will never be the same, he said.
“I pass his gym and high school everyday, several times a day,” Barkley said. “And for the last 30 years, every time I went back and drove by it, the first thing I would think was ‘Kobe Bryant.’ And now it’s gonna have a different meaning.”