By Alex Barth, 985TheSportsHub.com
Celtics general manager Danny Ainge joined 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Toucher & Rich Thursday morning, where he reacted to the death of Kobe Bryant over the weekend.
“Yeah, I mean, it was crushing,” Ainge said, explaining what went through his mind when he found out. “I was with my boys in our home watching some basketball games. And we first heard the reports and, you know, couldn’t believe it, didn’t think it was true. And like everybody, I’m sure and yeah, I mean, Kobe was special. And, you know, I’ve had this happen a handful of times in my lifetime where I’ve lost somebody like that. I remember my first time when I was about in middle school. And Steve Prefontaine passed away. And I grew up in Eugene, Oregon, where he ran. And that was just devastating when they found him at age 24, I think he crashed his car. And I remember when I was with the Celtics and I was driving into a game one night and I heard on the radio that Pistol Pete had passed away playing pickup basketball at age 40. And Pistol was my Kobe.”
Ainge was also asked about his players’ reactions, specifically Jayson Tatum, who spent last summer working out with Bryant.
“Yeah. I mean, Jayson, he’s gonna be fine. But yeah, it was hard on Jayson. I think Jayson probably had the closest relationship with Kobe of all of our players, had spent time with him and seen the goodness. You know, like seeing the good side of Kobe, the great side of Kobe and all the characteristics that he embodied as a 41 year old father/former player/family man/businessman, and that wealth of knowledge to get to a young player like Jayson Tatum. So, yeah, I mean, Jayson was able to be around him a little bit and be influenced by him.”
When it comes to league-wide tributes, such as retiring Nos. 8 and/or 24, Ainge says honoring Bryant goes beyond the number he wore on his back.
“You know that’s Wyc’s [Grousbeck, Celtics Governor] call [on the Celtics retiring 8, 24 is already retired for Sam Jones]]. Personally, I wouldn’t. If it’s something that you wouldn’t do when someone is living, I’m not sure it’s something you should do when they pass. We do, you know, we talked about this maybe on this show before too, just about retired numbers and how few of them we have. But I think there are ways to honor people without just retiring jerseys. And I think, you know, Kemba has a tough decision and yet there seems to be a little bit of pressure on him that some players have changed their numbers. But I think Kobe would be, personally, I think Kobe would be honored and Kobe’s wife and family would be honored of Kemba Walker wearing Kobe’s jersey and remaining to wear that jersey. So anyway, I don’t really have a strong opinion one way or another, but I prefer to honor people with the lives we live in and not necessarily with ceremonies.”
Ainge also was asked about putting Bryant on the NBA logo.
“I don’t know about that. I mean, there’s a lot of players that embody what the NBA is about. I mean, Michael Jordan has been a player for two different franchises, has won many championships also, and is an owner in the NBA right now. And he was a generation before Kobe. And he is who Kobe idolized and who Kobe wanted to be. I think he could make a case for either one of them being on a logo some day, but Jerry West has been a good icon for the NBA, and he, too, has spent his life in the NBA and is still working in the NBA. So I don’t really have strong opinions on those types of things.”
You can listen to Toucher & Rich’s full conversation with Ainge here:
Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Hate mail? Let him hear it on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at Alexander.Barth@bbgi.com