On Monday, Odom, 40, shared a heartfelt tribute on Instagram to Bryant, who died Sunday morning in a helicopter crash at age 41. (Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter Gianna, nicknamed “GiGi,” was also killed in the crash, along with seven other people.)
“These picture are just the tip of the iceberg of our relationship,” Odom began the lengthy caption. “He taught me so many things in life that were necessary on and off the court. On the court he taught me how to carve out defenses and how to take my time. How to make winning my ultimate goal.”
“Off the court he taught me to sign my own checks lol. Of course anyone who knows my story knows I’ve suffered a lot of loss but the only loss I can compare this to is when I lost my son,” added Odom, whose 6-month-old son Jayden died from sudden infant death syndrome in 2006.
“Even though our relationship wasn’t father/son, it was more like him being a teacher and me being his brother,” he continued. “I’m glad I got to be the ying to your yang as far as the locker room was concerned. It was my pleasure. I couldn’t even catch my breath today when I heard this news. I just knew if he was in a helicopter crash he would have been the one to survive. Somehow he would have jumped out and landed on his feet.”
He added: “I’m sitting here thinking about when we would be in practice scrimmaging and you would start the jump ball off with elbowing Sasha in the chest. Like dude it’s 10:30 in the morning lol. You think watching him play was crazy, you gotta think in practice if you scored like 8-9 buckets throughout the practice you had a great practice. I’ve seen him knock off 13-14 in a row in practice!!!! I’m still waiting for the media to come out and say wrong report. No way God took my brother this early. I know I been through my own stuff in life with using drugs and not being good to myself.”
Odom also referenced his 2015 hospitalization and coma following a drug overdose, writing, “When I went through that Coma situation if God would have came to me and said we would take me and spare Kobe I would have rather that happened.”
“In honor of my brother I’m up at 4am tomorrow to get to the gym!” he said. “Gigi gone give you buckets!!!! I love you brother 💔🙏🏿😥 @kobebryant.”
Odom formed a close bond with Bryant during their seven seasons on the Los Angeles Lakers together from 2004-2011, which included several championship victories. In his 2019 memoir Darkness to Light — which recalls Odom’s struggles with drugs and marriage to Khloé Kardashian — he praised Bryant for his leadership and friendship.
“Kobe Bryant played a crucial role in my life,” he said, according to Vibe. “I have recently started to reflect back about my relationships and I’m so grateful for the people God gave me. His love and care was so deep I should have given you my 6th man award just because I feel you deserved it…I hope you know that I’m extremely blessed to have you in my life not only as a friend, Laker fam, but also as a father figure that I never had.”
In 2016, Odom attended Bryant’s final NBA game before retirement alongside his son Lamar Jr. and daughter Destiny. Ahead of the game, Odom shared a special video message for his friend.
“Bean, what’s up. It’s your little brother LO. I just want to tell you I love you. You had a great career,” Odom said in a video airing at the Staples Centers. “I’m proud to say I was right with you, Kobe Bean.”
A number of other prominent sports figures,including Derek Jeter and Michael Jordan, have also shared their reactions to Bryant’s death, as well as posted tributes to the athlete. Shaquille O’Neal, mourned the loss of his longtime teammate and friend, sharing a series of photos of the two playing together over their careers.
Bryant is survived by his wife Vanessa, 37, and their other daughters Natalia, 17, Bianka, 3, and Capri, 7 months.