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DeRozan honors Kobe Bryant on anniversary of death


DeMar DeRozan doesn't need an anniversary to think about or appreciate Kobe Bryant.

"For me personally, he meant everything to me basketball-wise," DeRozan said following the Chicago Bulls' victory over the Raptors Wednesday night. "That's well documented, a mentor of mine, a friend of mine, someone that taught me a big part of the game and motivated me to have the mentality that I have today. Just with that alone, that should speak for itself what he meant to me---and what today meant."

Wednesday marked the second anniversary of Bryant's tragic death in a helicopter crash that also claimed his daughter, Gianna, and seven other people en route to a girls basketball tournament.

On that day, DeRozan also played the Raptors as a member of the Spurs. Almost eerily, the Spurs flew to Chicago after that game to face the Bulls.

Now, DeRozan plays for the Bulls and, after another game against his first team in the Raptors, will travel to San Antonio on Thursday for Friday's meeting with the Spurs.

"I thought about that this morning," DeRozan said. "I said, 'Man, how crazy is that?' That I play in Chicago now and we just played the Raptors the same day. It was just a mind twist."

Throughout the NBA, love and remembrances flooded forth for the Bryants and seven other victims. DeRozan, who typically wears some basketball shoe from Bryant's line, wore the "USA Kobe 10s" in tribute. Zach LaVine wore "Kobe 1s" that featured the same colors that Bryant wore when he scored 81 points against---you guessed it---the Raptors in 2006.

DeRozan is the father of two girls himself. Being a "Girl Dad" is something that Bryant popularized through his passing, his repeated mantra about that distinction becoming a common video and audio clip during remembrances.

The NBA is a tight-knit fraternity. DeRozan's bond with Bryant is something he carries with him every day. And on this somber anniversary, DeRozan honored his mentor the best way he knew how---by mastering the midrange and playing as hard as he could in a victory.

DeRozan scored 29 points with seven rebounds and seven assists on a day his thoughts turned to Bryant perhaps more than even usual.

"You just think about him, his daughter and everybody that was in that tragedy," DeRozan said. "You just give your best to their families."

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