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Kobe Bryant on how reality of being a basketball great meant he missed out on ‘great’ friendships

Kobe Bryant in 2008 (Picture: Getty Images)

The world is still coming to terms with the tragic loss of NBA legend Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, who died alongside seven others in a helicopter crash on Sunday.

In a poignant GQ interview with Kobe dating back to 2015, the sports star spoke about how his ambition, drive and ‘obsessive’ work ethic meant it was difficult to maintain ‘great’ friendships – something he accepts he missed out on.

When asked whether he had sacrificed the possibility of friends and a life outside of the game, Kobe explained that his love and passion for the job outweighed his desire to spend time socialising or forging close bonds with people.

‘I have “like minds”,’ he explained. ‘You know, I’ve been fortunate to play in Los Angeles, where there are a lot of people like me. Actors. Musicians. Businessmen. Obsessives. People who feel like God put them on earth to do whatever it is that they do.’

Kobe elaborated that he wasn’t actively choosing not to make friends, and that while he does have mates, he didn’t have the time to nurture or maintain friendships because of the demands of his career – and his impenetrable focus on all that it encompasses.

Kobe and Gianna (Picture: Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
LeBron and Kobe at the 2012 Olympics (Picture: REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini/File Photo)

‘I have friends,’ he affirmed. ‘But being a “great friend” is something I will never be. I can be a good friend. But not a great friend.

‘A great friend will call you every day and remember your birthday. I’ll get so wrapped up in my s**t, I’ll never remember that stuff. And the people who are my friends understand this, and they’re usually the same way.’

He disclosed that he and LeBron James ‘will text every now and again’ but ‘in terms of having one of those great, bonding friendships’, he accepted that it was ‘something he will probably never have’.

Kobe and Lebron last year (Picture: Getty Images)

Kobe said it wasn’t something he saw as a strength, it was more like a ‘weakness’ that he attributed to an isolated upbringing in Italy, which he spent moving from town to town and feeling like an outsider.

‘It’s not like I’m saying, “I don’t need friends because I’m so strong”. It’s a weakness,’ he explained.

‘When I was growing up in Italy, I grew up in isolation. It was not an environment suited to me. I was the only black kid. I didn’t speak the language. I’d make friends, but I’d never be part of the group, because the other kids were already growing up together. So this is how I grew up, and these are the weaknesses that I have.’

Kobe, a five-time NBA champion, played for the LA Lakers throughout his career and is considered one of the greatest players in the game’s history.

He shared four children with wife Vanessa Bryant – Gianna, Natalia, 17, Bianka, three, and seven-month-old Capri who was born in June.

Since news of his death, tributes have flooded in from celebrities and fans from all over the world and Kobe was honoured throughout the Grammys on Sunday night.

The ceremony took place in the Staples Centre, where Kobe’s former team the LA Lakers play their home games.

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