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'I idolised him': Rory McIlroy pays tribute to Kobe Bryant after basketball star's death

 

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Rory McIlroy explained his admiration for Kobe Bryant on Sunday.

Rory McIlroy explained his admiration for Kobe Bryant on Sunday.

Rory McIlroy explained his admiration for Kobe Bryant on Sunday.

Rory McIlroy says he grew up 'idolising' basketball star Kobe Bryant.

Bryant died in a helicopter crash in Southern California on Sunday morning, with McIlroy hearing the news only after his final round at The Farmers Insurance Open.

Aged 41, Bryant passed away alongside his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven other people.

As the news filtered through to Torrey Pines, it overshadowed the final round of McIlroy's first tournament of 2020.

The Holywood golfer went on to explain what Bryant meant to him.

"It's terrible. I'm so sad," he said. "I grew up idolizing him. The first basketball team I really followed were the Lakers.

"(Bryant) and Shaq (Shaquille O'Neal) played the Pacers I think it was in the 2000 finals. That was sort of when I got into basketball."

Not only a childhood hero, Bryant would go on to become a professional inspiration to McIlroy, as he learnt from the star's sheer will to win.

"His dedication, his drive, the fact that he would make his teammates wait on the bus for two hours while he set an example and worked hard and mastered his craft," said McIlroy. "That's what he did, he was a pure master of what he did. It's just so sad."

Bryant is one of the greatest players in NBA history, winning five championships during a storied career with the LA Lakers.

The NBA legend was in the news as recently as Saturday night, after current LA Lakers star LeBron James passed him on the all-time NBA scoring list, taking third place.

Bryant's friend Tiger Woods also heard the news after completing his round.

"It's unbelievable, the reality that he's no longer here," said the 15-time major champion.

"Ultimate toughness, ultimate competitor, and one of the most shocking, tragic days that I've ever been a part of in a very quick span here."

Belfast Telegraph