“Words cannot express how I’m feeling today. The only 2 words that ring in my head – devastated and heartbroken. I cannot seem to shake this feeling no matter what I’ve tried to do since hearing this yesterday.
“People will always remember how we competed against each other in the league, but it goes so much deeper than that for me. …His generosity and respect for the game is something that I witnessed first-hand every time we stepped on the dance floor to compete.”
Iverson and Bryant were drafted in 1996, with Iverson going as the top overall pick and Bryant selected 13th. They faced off in the 2001 NBA Finals, which the Lakers won in five games.
Although they were rivals on the court, the two stars had a mutual admiration for each other. They believed that competing against one another is what helped make them the legends that they became.
“I obsessively read every article and book I could find about (Iverson),” Bryant wrote in the Players’ Tribune. “I obsessively watched every game he had played, going back to the IUPU All-American Game I obsessively studied his every success, and his every struggle. I obsessively searched for any weakness I could find.”