Rob Pelinka paid homage to his best friend Kobe Bryant in a statement released Thursday.
Pelinka, the general manager of the Los Angeles Lakers, also was Bryant’s agent during most of his 20-year NBA career, all with the Lakers.
“There has been an amputation of part of my soul,” Pelinka wrote. “He was, simply put, the most inspirational athlete of our time. What the world may not know, is that he was also the best friend anyone could ever imagine.”
He recounted what it was like to be Bryant’s best friend and the inspiration he drew from him. He also remembered 13-year-old Gianna Bryant, also a victim in the helicopter crash that killed her father and seven others on Sunday. Pelinka confirmed the news of Gianna’s upcoming birth to the public when he served as Bryant’s agent.
“She was also an extraordinary, loyal and supportive sister, and a wonderful friend to my children. My son and daughter always left time with Gigi feeling better about life itself,” Pelinka wrote.
He is very close to Bryant’s family, including wife Vanessa and his other three daughters, Natalia, Bianka and Capri.
Pelinka has served as GM since the 2017 season, when he was hired to replace Mitch Kupchak in a front-office shakeup. He took the job a year after Bryant’s final season.
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His statement reads in full:
“On Sunday, I lost my best friend and my sweet goddaughter. With that, there has been an amputation of part of my soul.
“Kobe was a force of nature, deep and obsessed with excellence. He was wise, determined, passionate. A visionary beyond measure. A dedicated and loving husband, and a “girl-dad” like no other. When he walked into a room, the energy ignited. He was high voltage, with a motor that had no limits. His mind had an infinite capacity to learn. He was, simply put, the most inspirational athlete of our time. What the world may not know, is that he was also the best friend anyone could ever imagine.
“Gigi was pure joy. Her smile brought comfort to any and every occasion. She was brilliant, kind and warm. And, like her dad, when she stepped onto the basketball court, she took on an entirely different nature, and boy could she play. Her basketball destiny was apparent, and the world knew it. She was also an extraordinary, loyal and supportive sister, and a wonderful friend to my children. My son and daughter always left time with Gigi feeling better about life itself. Everything Gigi stood for, I am so proud of.
“Maya Angelou once wrote “when great trees fall … lions hunker down in tall grasses.”
“What I am daily learning is that after the tragic loss of these nine souls, life on this side of eternity will never be the same. For any of us who knew them, there is an irreplaceable void left behind.
“But I am also finding that there is a hope. For now, each new step for me will be full of deep love and prayers, as a heavy sorrow for Vanessa, Natalia, Bianka, and Capri, and all the families involved, is slowly redeemed into something healed and new. I am coming to realize that nothing can separate any of us from the love and inspiration we’ve received from Kobe and Gianna, nothing at all.
“Their lives have shown me that death has no victory. Last Sunday is not the end of the story. It’s just a new beginning. Kobe and Gigi’s legacies will live on – and gain even more power and influence. All of us touched by them will now try to become torch carriers of their legacies. And, while we do that, we can be certain of this: Kobe and Gigi will continue on, forever, playing a joy-filled game of basketball in heaven above.”
Follow Heather Tucker on Twitter @HeatherR_Tucker.