Allen Iverson says he's 'devastated and heartbroken' over Kobe Bryant's death

Allen Iverson is “devastated and heartbroken” over Kobe Bryant’s death. The two players carry an inextricable link. Not only were they both involved in the same draft, but they had an intense rivalry on the court.

Iverson, 44, reflected on Bryant’s drive, work ethic and generosity in an Instagram post about Bryant’s death. Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna were two of nine people who died in a helicopter crash Sunday.

Iverson’s full statement reads:

“Words cannot express how I’m feeling today. The only 2 words that ring in my head — devastated and heartbroken. I cannot seem to shake this feeling no matter what I’ve tried to do since hearing this yesterday.

People will always remember how we competed against each other in the league, but it goes so much deeper than that for me. The story of us being drafted in arguably the deepest class of its kind ever in the history of the NBA can be debated for many years to come. However, his generosity and respect for the game is something that I witnessed first-hand every time we stepped on the dance floor to compete.

It’s one memory of him that I can’t stop thinking about. It was our rookie season and my first trip to LA for a game against the Lakers. He came to my hotel, picked me up and took me to a restaurant. When we returned before he left, he asked me, “what are you going to do tonight?” My reply was, I’m going to the club, what are you going to do?” He said, “I’m going to the gym.” That is who he always was, a true student of the game of basketball and also the game of life. He prepared relentlessly. There is something we can all learn from the “Mamba” mentality and from the way my brother lived his life. He will always have my respect as a competitor, as a friend, as a brother.

My thoughts and prayers are with his wife Vanessa, their children and the families of all of the victims of yesterday’s tragedy. As a father, I cannot wrap my head around how they must feel.

We are not okay. But we will find the strength to pull through this together because that’s what Kobe would want us to do.”

Iverson didn’t touch on his on-court rivalry with Bryant in that note, but it was a big part of what drove Bryant to be a better player. Bryant said he obsessed over Iverson, especially early in their careers. After a game in which Bryant gave up 41 points to Iverson, Bryant said he watched footage of Iverson to try and find a weakness in his game. Even after Bryant limited Iverson the next time they faced each other, Bryant was mad that one player made him go to those lengths.

A number of prominent athletes — including Michael Jordan, Colin Kaepernick, Naomi Osaka, Tiger Woods, Dwyane Wade and many others — have paid tribute to Bryant and offered their condolences to his family.

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