Former Sooner stars Buddy Hield and Trae Young were both close with NBA legend Kobe Bryant, who died Sunday in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California.
Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter Gianna also died in the crash.
Bryant played for the Los Angeles Lakers from 1996-2016. He averaged 25 points per game for his career, won five NBA championships and the 2008 NBA MVP Award.
Hield, who played for Oklahoma from 2012-16 and led the Sooners to the Final Four in his senior year, wrote an article on The Player’s Tribune in 2016, chronicling his relationship with Bryant and what he learned from him.
After Hield was drafted No. 6 overall by the New Orleans Pelicans in the 2016 NBA Draft, he said Bryant texted him congratulating him and gave him advice on his upcoming professional career.
“It doesn’t matter where you go,” Bryant wrote. “It matters more what you do when you get there. Just go there and work.”
Bryant attended the Sooners’ 80-68 win over Oregon in the 2016 Elite Eight, when Hield led the Sooners to their first Final Four in 14 years by scoring 37 points. After the game, Hield took a picture with his idol and Bryant sung his praises.
"As soon as I saw Kobe was here, I knew I had to put on a show,” Hield said after the game. “Blame it on Kobe.”
"It was a heck of a performance," Bryant said. “He looked phenomenal.”
Hield, now on the Sacramento Kings, is in his fourth season in the NBA and averages 20 points and 5.1 rebounds per game.
Young played for the Sooners in the 2017-18 season and averaged 27.4 points and 8.7 assists before being selected with the No. 5 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. The Norman-native and Atlanta Hawks guard met Bryant when he was in high school at a basketball camp, he said in a video diary he made for ESPN’s The Undefeated.
Bryant was in attendance for Atlanta’s game against the Los Angeles Lakers on Nov. 17, 2019, which ended in a 122-101 win for the Lakers. After the game, Young got the chance to get advice from Bryant.
“He was just telling me how it’s all part of the process, to be patient, and just understand that things are going to turn,” Young said in the video diary. “He’s a great dude, someone I can lean on for advice now. It’s pretty cool.”
"Kobe was telling me to be patient and just understand that things are going to turn."In his second video diary of the season, @ATLHawks star @TheTraeYoung talks to @MarcJSpearsESPN about playing the Lakers in front of Kobe Bryant, his love for his new dog, family and more. pic.twitter.com/8cQMOLTrgd— The Undefeated (@TheUndefeated) November 22, 2019
All the LessonsAll the AdviceEvery word you ever told me...Will stick with me forever Thank You Kobe🙏🏽❤️ pic.twitter.com/WPCdHg3iyt— Trae Young (@TheTraeYoung) January 26, 2020
Young also knew Gianna, who he said attended two of Atlanta’s games this year.
...This S*** can’t be real... this the first moment I was able to meet Gianna Maria, she’s been to only 3 games this year... 2 of them were mine... She told me I was her favorite player to watch🙏🏽 I can’t believe this😢😭Rest Easy Gigi❤️ pic.twitter.com/IfDrE9Gjlv— Trae Young (@TheTraeYoung) January 26, 2020
Atlanta is set to play the Washington Wizards at 5 p.m. CT Sunday, and prior to the game Young shared an emotional hug with his mother.
In his second year in the NBA, Young is averaging 29.1 points per game and 8.8 assists, and was named an All-Star starter for the NBA’s Eastern Conference on Jan. 23.