NEW YORK -- Growing up in Maryland, Kevin Durant watched Kobe Bryant from afar. Although they were 3,000 miles apart then, Durant said that turning on the television and seeing Bryant shake defenders, make nearly impossible shots and dazzle fans made him feel close to the Lakers legend.
"I felt like I knew him my whole life," Durant said after the Nets practice on Tuesday. "We see him grow up; we see him retiring, going into his second phase of life. It's just so many people that are sad about this, and it hurts to even think about it."
Durant was drafted into the league 11 years after Bryant. Over the nine years where their careers intersected, the two superstars faced off 25 times. Kobe has the edge in their overall record in those meeting -- beating Durant 14 times.
Durant said that while Bryant was always encouraging, most of their conversations were brief and pointed. Durant said the best advice he got from Bryant was, "just put the work in, man."
"Kobe didn't really have any long-winded messages for me as a player; it was just quick, short gems," Durant said. "And he led by example -- so he came in and worked, and you seen it.
"The craft was the most important thing, and mastering it, and everything you learn from that is what you're gonna be in life. And he poured everything into the game, and poured everything into everybody that was involved with him."
Durant's teammates have also been deeply affected by Bryant's death. Spencer Dinwiddie announced on Twitter that he will be changing his jersey number from 8 -- a number Bryant used to wear -- to 26.