LOS ANGELES --- Friday marks four years since the tragic and shocking news that Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others died in a helicopter crash.
Chicago Bulls star DeMar DeRozan doesn't need an anniversary to think about or feel the impact of Bryant, with whom he grew close as DeRozan moved from fan of the Lakers growing up in Compton, Calif., to bonafide competitor alongside the Lakers' star.
"He meant everything," DeRozan said late Thursday night after the Bulls lost to the Lakers. "I'm from here. So everything for me growing up was Lakers. From the moment he came into the league to his last game, everything about him inspired me to want to be a basketball player---everything about him.
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"That was my favorite player growing up. That was a mentor of mine. That was somebody I looked up to and I could go to for advice. So for me, I've said it plenty of times, Kobe was everything to me."
The Bulls and Lakers played, of course, under the retired jerseys No. 8 and No. 24 that Bryant wore during his 20-year NBA career that included five NBA championships. DeRozan and Bryant shared seven NBA seasons together as competitors.