The 82-year-old actor -- a Los Angeles Lakers superfan who's a fixture courtside at the Staples Center -- gave a rare interview with CBSLA on Monday to talk about his friendship with Bryant that he developed after watching him play through the years. Nicholson also attended the Staples Center game on Dec. 18 when the Lakers retired Bryant's jersey numbers, 8 and 24.
"My reaction is the same as almost all of L.A.," Nicholson said. "You just suddenly ... where we think everything's solid, there's a big hole in the wall, you know? I was so used to seeing and talking to Kobe that ... it kills you. It's just a terrible event."
Nicholson recalled meeting Bryant for the first time at a game at Madison Square Garden in New York, and the Oscar winner teased him by asking him if he wanted a basketball signed by him.
"He looked at me like I was crazy," he said with a laugh. "He got all the jokes, for sure."
The actor also noted Bryant's "sensitivity" when the pro athlete asked him to take part in a documentary, but knew Nicholson rarely appeared in the public eye.
"He called me on the phone and said, 'Jack, I know you're not going to want to do this but they made me ask you,' and he was doing a documentary or something, and that just speaks to Kobe's sensitivity," he shared. "Just in general, I don't do television interviews."
Nicholson said that most of all, he will remember the "totality of just how great a player he was."
"I sat right behind his jump shot on the left-hand side," he shared. "I can see him going up and I can tell the first instant if it's going in. ... We’ll think of him all the time and we'll miss him."