Kobe Bryant had a big impact on stars in the NHL

Other athletes looked up to and admired Kobe Bryant in the same way basketball fans did, and that includes some of hockey's biggest stars.

NBA icon's presence reached beyond the hardwood to the ice

Kobe's impactful history with NHL stars

2 years ago
For years Kobe Bryant has rubbed shoulders with the hockey elite, Rob Pizzo looks at Bryant's history with the NHL.  2:18

This week, like many people, my mind keeps going to something that has nothing to do with hockey, something that shocked and saddened me and has not left my mind since I heard the tragic news. 

Of course, I'm talking about the death of Kobe Bryant in a helicopter crash on Sunday.

While Kobe was best known for what he did in the world of basketball, his presence went beyond just that sport.

Other athletes looked up to and admired Kobe in the same way basketball fans did, and that includes the hockey community, not surprising considering the contact many teams have in sharing arenas.

Sure, he was regularly seen at Kings games, but so were many other celebrities, but Kobe and hockey's elite mixed on a closer level at times. Here are a few.

The Gretzky Jersey

You know the saying "greatness recognizes greatness"?

That was the situation when Kobe wore Wayne Gretzky's jersey in May 2012 as he strolled into the Staples Center for Game 3 of the Western Conference semifinals against the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Lakers were down 2-0 in the series at the time, so maybe he was looking for some inspiration from the Great One. The Lakers went on to win game with Kobe putting up 36 points. And the total number of points the Lakers put on the scoreboard? 99.

The Ovechkin Hug

If you have ever had a chance to meet an athlete you admire, you know the strange feeling you get. 

It's as if your body and brain are having a weird battle between acting cool or just giving in to your emotions. That battle also exists in elite athletes like Alexander Ovechkin, who looked like the happiest person on earth when he got to give Kobe a big bear hug. Ovi also went home with a signed Kobe jersey and a pair of signed shoes.

Kobe the Mentor

In 2016 after Kobe's final NBA game, P.K. Subban had a chance to meet the Black Mamba.

He did what most people do when they met him: shake hands, smile for picture, post it online.

But he went one further and asked Bryant to be his mentor.

The two exchanged phone calls and texts — including during the Predators run to the Stanley Cup finals in 2017 — about everything from his mindset going into a game, to training techniques.

If you are trying to reach the top of the mountain, why not pick the brain of a man who had been there five times?


Rob Pizzo has been a reporter for CBC Sports based out of Toronto since 2013. He has covered the NHL for Hockey Night in Canada, CBC, and was rinkside at the Olympic Games in Pyeongchang.


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