Dallas Mavericks Star Kyrie Irving Says That Kobe Bryant ‘Walks With Me In Spirit’ Every Day

Irving has averaged almost 23 points during the Mavericks’ 2023-24 playoff run to the NBA Finals. (Tim Heitman/Getty Images via CNN Newsource)

By Ben Morse, CNN

(CNN) — Dallas Mavericks star Kyrie Irving paid tribute to the late Kobe Bryant on Monday as he prepares for the NBA Finals which tip off on Thursday.

Irving called Bryant – who died alongside his daughter in a helicopter crash in 2020 – his “mentor,” adding that he “misses him every day.”

“He held such a big presence and knew his superpowers weren’t just on the court but in how he approached life,” Irving told reporters. “He inspired you to do extra even when you got tired. His life lessons transcended basketball, any sport, or entertainment business.”

Irving, 32, spoke about how he was able learn from the example Bryant set, on and off the basketball court, and helped him grow as a person.

Irving was drafted into the NBA in 2011 and Bryant retired in 2016, with the pair facing against one another on six occasions.

He added that while Bryant is gone, the former Los Angeles Lakers legend “walks with me in spirit” every day.

Kobe Bryant (left) and Kyrie Irving (right) look on during a game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2013. (Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty Images via CNN Newsource)

“I feel his presence every day and I’m just grateful that I got a chance to get to know somebody like that, and I got a chance to challenge somebody like that to one-on-one and to just to pick his brain and just understand that there are bigger things than just the game of basketball, like women empowerment and also doing the little things that a lot of people don’t see, meaning helping the world selflessly,” the Mavs guard said.

“So I could go on and on about this, but he helped out a lot of people that no one really knows about and he did things without anyone’s praise, so I try to follow in that same lineage and create my own path and create my own formula to success while also commemorating his formula that he gave me.”

Irving has helped lead the Mavericks to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2011 and for the third time in the organization’s history.

In Bryant’s illustrious career, he went to the NBA Finals on seven occasions, winning the NBA championship five times.

His backcourt pairing with Luka Dončić has proved almost unstoppable throughout the playoffs for opposing defenses, but the team faces a tough task against the Boston Celtics, who have themselves romped through the postseason, for the Larry O’Brien trophy.

Game 1 of the NBA Finals begins at 8:30 p.m. ET on Thursday, June 6, in Boston’s TD Garden.

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