"Kobe was always really sweet and could realize the difference between what his job was, who I was a fan of, and the mutual respect that we had for one another," Wahlberg told Entertainment Tonight on Thursday at the McMillion$ premiere at The Landmark in Los Angeles.
The actor also recalled one of his favorite interactions with Bryant, which took place when the Los Angeles Lakers were playing the Bostin Celtics, Wahlberg's hometown team, in the NBA finals.
"He would always go out of his way to be especially kind to my children," Wahlberg said. "One of the great experiences of all time, I remember Matt Damon, actually, talked about when the Celtics were playing the Lakers in the finals. But [former Los Angeles Lakers coach] Phil Jackson had got up and yelled at us, more at him than me. But Kobe had said some really interesting things to me. It was the series that they'd lost against the Celtics but he was not going to let them win in LA. It was not gonna happen at Staples [Center] and he didn't let it happen."
"Celtics ended up winning that year, but, you know, it's obviously a tragedy," he continued. "Being a father of four myself, I can't imagine what his wife and family are going through. It's just absolutely terrible."
Bryant died in the crash along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, Gianna's basketball teammates Alyssa Altobelli and Payton Chester, Altobelli's parents John and Keri Altobelli, Chester's mom Sarah Chester, girls' basketball coach Christina Mauser and pilot Ara Zobayan.
Wahlberg added that the crash served as a reminder to appreciate his loved ones.
"It's obviously a tragic loss that everybody is feeling. Kobe, his daughter, the other family members, his family members, the other people that were on board in the helicopter, it's just tragic," he shared. "It's just a reminder that life is short… All the people that you love, call them and remind them as often as possible and cherish every moment."
After the crash, Wahlberg used Instagram to share a photo of himself and his son sitting courtside at a Lakers game as Bryant came over to talk to them.
"RIP," the caption read.
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Photo Credit: Getty / Leon Bennett