Tom Thibodeau reflects on Kobe Bryant a year after his death

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Tom Thibodeau got to know Kobe Bryant when Bryant was in high school in Lower Merion, Pa, and the Knicks head coach was a Sixers assistant under John Lucas.

Bryant had been vocal about Thibodeau’s coaching prowess even before he landed his first head-coaching job with the Bulls in 2010.

Tuesday is the one-year anniversary of Bryant’s death in a helicopter crash.

“It’s really sad,’’ Thibodeau said. “I had an opportunity to get to know Kobe actually quite well. When I was an assistant coach in Philadelphia, he was a high school player and used to come to our practices all the time. And I worked him out quite a bit, and we maintained a close relationship over the years.

“So it’s sad. You feel terrible for his family and the NBA family, all his friends. And just who he was as a person. Forget the basketball player. Great person, great family guy. It’s hard to believe and it’s certainly very unfortunate. Thoughts and prayers go out to his family. [I] still can’t believe it.’’


The Jazz, who meet the Knicks on Tuesday night, have not lost since a 112-100 defeat at the Garden on Jan. 6, reeling off an eight-game winning streak to move to 12-4 since Julius Randle dominated them for 30 points. Now the Knicks travel to Vivint Arena to conclude their four-game Western trip with the Jazz certainly seeking revenge.

Tom Thibodeau
Tom Thibodeau
NBAE via Getty Images

“They’re playing at a very high level right now,’’ Thibodeau said. “They’re strong on both sides of the ball and share it offensively. They’re a good shooting team — they’re going to take 45, 50 3’s. They have a dynamic player in Donovan Mitchell, breaking people off the dribble. He puts a lot of pressure on you rolling to the rim. It will be a good test for us. We’re going to have to play well for 48 minutes.”


Reggie Bullock, who missed Sunday’s loss in Portland with a new neck injury, is expected to miss the trip finale. Bullock, who will miss his fourth game of the season, had spinal fusion surgery in 2019. In Portland, Alec Burks, slid into the starting lineup and scored 18 points, including a career-high five 3-pointers.

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