Peyton Manning held a speech at the NFL honors last night, and he showed tremendous respect and admiration for Kobe Bryant, who passed alongside his daughter Gianna and seven other people in a helicopter crash a week ago. Manning's and Bryant's careers were in many ways aligned, and at one point, they were considered the best athletes in their respective sports. They both had enormous respect for each other, and Manning said that over the years, they built up a strong friendship as well.
"I was lucky to call Kobe, my friend. Our careers overlapped almost identically. We even retired within just a few months of each other. I remember meeting him in the Lakers' locker room in 1999, and we immediately recognized mutual appreciation of what it took to do our jobs well. His sport was different, but the way Kobe prepared and analyzed the game was very familiar. Kobe was a superstar and a fan."
One of the things that marked Kobe's career, which made him the legend he is that he was always willing to learn more and ask the right questions. That is something that Manning highlighted in his speech, which is a mark of a true champion. Manning also shared an anecdote in which Kobe gave his favorite football team the Eagles a pep talk motivating them to win a championship, which they did the same year.
"Huge admirer of his hometown Philadelphia Eagles. Kobe gave a pep talk to a team before a playoff game the year they won the Super Bowl. Kobe understood the importance of cultivating the future of sports and sharing the valuable lessons sport teaches about life. He didn't just give advice, though. Kobe was asking questions. Like a true champion, he never stopped learning. We knew him as a superhero but in his world, a curious and passionate fan in ours."