Los Angeles Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka has broken his silence and released a statement remembering the lives of Kobe Bryant, his daughter GiGi and the other seven passengers aboard the helicopter that crashed on Sunday.
“On Sunday, I lost my best friend and my sweet goddaughter,” Pelinka said. “With that, there has been an amputation of part of my soul.”
Pelinka and Bryant’s friendship goes way back to when Bryant was an NBA rookie signed with the SFX Management, where Pelinka worked under agent Arn Tellem, ESPN reports.
As time went on, Pelinka would eventually leave Tellem to start Landmark Sports, with Bryant coming along with him to become a client.
Their relationship was more than just business as the two moved near each other in Orange County, California.
In 2017, Bryant also assisted in the process of appointing Pelinka as general manager of the Lakers organization.
“Kobe was a force of nature, deep and obsessed with excellence,” Pelinka continued. “He was wise, determined, passionate. A visionary beyond measure. A dedicated and loving husband, and a ‘girl-dad’ like no other. When he walked into a room, the energy ignited. He was high voltage, with a motor that had no limits. His mind had an infinite capacity to learn. He was, simply put, the most inspirational athlete of our time. What the world may not know is that he was also the best friend anyone could ever imagine.”
Pelinka continued, speaking on Gigi and her destiny to play ball, stating, “Gigi was pure joy. Her smile brought comfort to any and every occasion. She was brilliant, kind, and warm. And, like her dad, when she stepped onto the basketball court, she took on an entirely different nature, and boy could she play. Her basketball destiny was apparent, and the world knew it. She was also an extraordinary, loyal, and supportive sister, and a wonderful friend to my children. My son and daughter always left time with Gigi feeling better about life itself. Everything Gigi stood for; I am so proud of.”
Frank Vogel, coach of the Lakers, spoke to reporters on Pelinka, revealing they told him to stay home with his family. However, he’s remained at practice the last few days.
“We’ve just encouraged him to be with his family as much as he can, and to be away from here, and to be here as much as feels right for him,” Vogel told the press. “To his credit, he’s done just a great job of striking that balance, just making sure obviously that his priorities are in the right spot to be down in Newport.”
Vogel added that remaining at work is a form of therapy.
“But he’s been in the last two days, and we’re concentrating on the work,” Vogel said. “There’s therapy in the work. Our whole belief since I got here is we’re just going to put our heads down, roll our sleeves up, and grind and do the job. That really hasn’t been any different for him the past few days. … I do believe that being around each other is good for all of us, and I think it applies to him as well.”
Pelinka, 50, who is also the Lakers Vice President of basketball operations, also spoke on the other victims involved in the accident saying, “Maya Angelou once wrote, ‘When great trees fall… lions hunker down in tall grasses.’ What I am daily learning is that after the tragic loss of these nine souls, life on this side of eternity will never be the same. For any of us who knew them, there is an irreplaceable void left behind.”
Pelinka also sent his condolences to the families of the victims of the crash. “But I am also finding that there is a hope. For now, each new step for me will be full of deep love and prayers, as a heavy sorrow for Vanessa, Natalia, Bianka, and Capri, and all the families involved, is slowly redeemed into something healed and new,” he said. “I am coming to realize that nothing can separate any of us from the love and inspiration we’ve received from Kobe and Gianna, nothing at all.”
“Their lives have shown me that death has no victory. Last Sunday is not the end of the story. It’s just a new beginning. Kobe and Gigi’s legacies will live on — and gain even more power and influence. All of us touched by them will now try to become torch carriers of their legacies. And, while we do that, we can be certain of this: Kobe and Gigi will continue on, forever, playing a joy-filled game of basketball in heaven above,” Pelinka concluded.