Chris Paul Emotionally Opens Up About Kobe Bryant's Bond With Daughter Gianna (Exclusive)
By Desiree Murphy
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Chris Paul is remembering his friend, rival and mentor, Kobe Bryant.
ET exclusively spoke with the 34-year-old Oklahoma City Thunder star at NBA All-Star Media Day in Chicago, Illinois, on Friday, where he opened up about how he's been coping with Kobe's death. He also talked about the bond Kobe shared with his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna "Gigi" Bryant, who also died in the tragic helicopter crash that killed seven others last month.
"Man, it's crazy," Paul told ET's Nischelle Turner, getting teary-eyed. "For me, it's just still not real. So, just seeing that connection and knowing how important his family was to him, all his girls. Vanessa... it's still tough for me to comprehend and to understand."
"She, Gigi, was with her protector," he added, of Kobe and Gianna's final moments together. "She was with her dad and, you know, she wouldn't rather be in any other place."
In addition to Gianna, Kobe and his wife, Vanessa Bryant, shared three other children together: daughters Natalia, 17, Bianka, 3, and Capri, 7 months.
Shortly after news of Kobe and Gianna's deaths broke in January, Chris took to Instagram to pay tribute to the legendary NBA star, whom he and his teammates competed against for years on the court. Chris played professional basketball for the New Orleans Hornets, Los Angeles Clippers and Houston Rockets before joining the Thunder in 2019.
Additionally, Chris has also teamed up with Kobe various times over the years. The two recently represented the Western conference during the 2016 NBA All-Star Game in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, along with players like Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. Chris also won two Olympic gold medals -- in 2008 and 2012 -- with Kobe.
"I don't know if I'll ever be able to fully process it. My parents have always said everything happens for a reason and its in God’s plan. But this one is different. Broken fingers, torn Achilles, it didn’t matter. You overcame it all!!" Paul captioned his tribute post. "You were DIFFERENT! Sometimes we competed so hard against each other that you could never tell how I was always watching YOU!! I needed to see how much better I needed to get and how much harder I needed to work!"
"The love you had for the game was nowhere near the love you had for YOUR girls!! All 5 of them!!" he continued. "And Gigi, who we had already prearranged her marriage with lil Chris, is as beautiful and feisty as she could ever be!!! As I've watched you in retirement, as happy as you've ever been, I've sat back and prayed and hoped that my baby girl will look at me the way Gigi looks at you!!! I Love You and will miss you with all my heart my brother!!! All my love to Vanessa and all the families during this time ?? #Mamba4Life #Mambacita."