As the 2020 NBA All-Star Weekend kicks off, many are lamenting the sad reality that basketball icon Kobe Bryant will not be there to participate, after having died in a tragic helicopter crash in January. Interestingly, though, former NBA star Dwight Howard recently said that Bryant was supposed to be involved with the big event, and had even agreed to help him with the dunk contest. According to CBS Sports, Howard shared that he'd reached out to Bryant about putting together some dunk styles, and that the former L.A. Laker had confirmed that he would help out.
Howard spoke about Bryant's tragic death to ESPN, saying, "For me, it's super sad because I really wanted to tell him how much I appreciate everything he's done, all the things he's said. Even at the time that we were on the same team, we didn't understand each other."
He added: "But I saw a different Kobe, and I even saw a change in myself. And I'm pretty sure he saw it. I just wanted to be able to tell him how I felt about him, and I never got the chance to. That was really the most heartbreaking part. Every day it's been on my mind. It's something that I've just got to deal with, just show the fans in this city that I'm willing to do whatever it takes"
23 years ago today, a rookie Kobe Bryant brought his swagger to the Dunk Contest 😤 pic.twitter.com/Damtw8KCUk— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) February 8, 2020
The Jan. 26 helicopter crash that killed Bryant, also claimed the life of his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, the aircraft's pilot, and six other passengers. Bryant was 41 years old at the time of the crash, which has since been ruled an accident. Speaking out on Bryant's passing, former L.A. Laker Shaquille O'Neal told NBC's Today that it was "very hard" for him.
"I've never seen anything like this before," he admitted. "I was at the house the day it happened and my son brought me the thing. You know how the internet is. Stop playing with me, get out of my face with that right now. Just stop and then I got the calls. A guy who helped me become as big as I am, and we will always be forever linked."
The NBA Slam Dunk Contest is scheduled to take place on Saturday, Feb. 15 at 8 p.m. ET, in Chicago's United Center.