Popovich reflects on Kobe in first LA visit since crash: 'You feel it all over the city’; DeMar honors Bryant with old-school jersey

Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant (24) hugs San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich before an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)
Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant (24) hugs San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich before an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Darren Abate) (AP Photo)

LOS ANGELES – Gregg Popovich and Kobe Bryant forged a friendship built through two decades of competitive battles on the court.

As the Spurs opened their annual Rodeo Road Trip on Monday in the building where many of those battles occurred, Popovich was reflective about what Kobe Bryant meant to basketball and the city of Los Angeles.

“It’s certainly on everybody’s mind. It’s been on everybody’s mind since the tragedy,” Popovich said Monday before the Spurs played the LA Clippers. “But to be here, you feel it all over the city, in the hotel, walking the streets, when you come into the building.”

The Spurs’ back-to-back games in Southern California this week are the first they have played in LA since the devastating crash on Jan. 26 that killed Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven other people.

Decals with Bryant’s initials and jersey numbers were placed on the Staples Center court for Lakers home games. A public massive memorial was also created outside the arena.

Compton native DeMar DeRozan honored Bryant by arriving at the Staples Center wearing Bryant’s old No. 8 jersey before the game.

“You can’t help but reminisce. All the thoughts go through your head, mostly what a tragedy it was and what the family is going through,” said Popovich.

There have been countless tributes to the Lakers legend and the victims. The Spurs played Toronto moments after hearing the news and the league has been in a state of shock.

The Lakers played their first home game since the tragedy on Friday. They honored Bryant and the victims with a lengthy pregame tribute.

On Monday evening, a somber Popovich added that Bryant will never be forgotten and his thoughts and prayers are with Vanessa Bryant, her daughters and the families of all the victims.

“There’s nothing like losing somebody,” Popovich said. “Nothing like it. And nobody knows what it’s like unless you’ve done it, so I really feel for them all. The memories will always be there, but you just feel for the families.”http://www.mysanantonio.com/

MORE COVERAGE ON KOBE BRYANT

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About the Author:

RJ Marquez has been at KSAT since 2010. He's covered a variety of stories and events across the San Antonio area, and is the lead reporter for KSAT Explains. He also covers the Spurs for on-air and digital platforms. You can see RJ regularly on KSAT Explains and Good Morning San Antonio. He also writes a weekly Spurs newsletter.