Sportscaster and Fox News contributor Jim Gray, a lifelong friend of Kobe Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash Sunday, spoke about how he conducted the last interview with the NBA icon in uniform.
Bryant said in his last interview that he had made a promise to himself at 15: “At the end of my career I want people to think of me as a talented overachiever. I was blest with talent, but I worked as if I had none.”
“He will be remembered better than the way he wanted to be remembered because he was all of that and much more,” Gray said. “That was an honor to do the last interview in his uniform… he never forgot the people who were in his life.”
The NBA legend, his 13-year-old daughter and as many as seven other people died in the helicopter crash on a remote, steep hillside in Southern California on Sunday, his sudden death at age 41 touching off an outpouring of grief for a star whose celebrity transcended basketball.
The chopper crashed in Calabasas, about 30 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles. Investigators said nine people were believed to have died.
Bryant was an all-time basketball great who spent his entire 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Gray said he spotted his talent “very early,” and said Bryant had a knack for basketball, and was “very proficient.”
He said Bryant’s goal as a competitor was excellence: “He wanted to be the best, and he wanted to be excellent.”
Gray said about the athlete: “He was myopic in his vision, he saw nothing other than victory and excellence, that’s all he wanted.”
He was grateful for his friendship, and he called the champion loyal and decent.
Gray earlier responded to the devastating news, as the country started to mourn one of the greatest NBA players of all-time.
“It’s shocking,” Gray said on “America’s News HQ.” “I’ve known Kobe literally as a newborn, I’ve known him his whole life and it’s very, very sad to hear that this has transpired.”
Gray, a close friend of Bryant’s, became emotional on-air, reflecting on their friendship just moments after news of the crash was confirmed.
“He was a dear friend, a great basketball player. It was an honor to cover his career and having been fortunate enough to have been close to him was one of the great joys in my life,” Gray said. “Very, very sad moment right now.”
In a later interview, Gray discussed Bryant’s “commitment to excellence.”
“He was committed… not to the money, not to the fame, not to the glory… to excellence,” Gray said.
“If you didn’t know Kobe Bryant,” he added, “you had to love the way this guy played basketball and his attitude. He did everything within his wherewithal to be able to win.”
Fox News’ Yael Halon and The Associated Press contributed to this report.