Duane Washington Jr. Has A Special Connection To Kobe Bryant

On the one-year anniversary of Kobe Bryant's tragic helicopter crash, Ohio State University shooting guard Duane Washington Jr. had some sentimental things to say about his "uncle" and the conversations he wishes he could have had with the Los Angeles Lakers legend. Washington Jr. comes from basketball royalty. His father, Duane Washington, played for the Washington Bullets, while his uncle, Derek Fisher, played with Bryant and the Lakers for 18 seasons. It's this relationship that brought him closest to Bryant, although they never even really bonded over basketball, much to the younger player's regret. 

Bryant died on January 26, 2020 in a helicopter crash with his daughter Gigi, baseball coach John Altobelli, and six others, including the pilot. Fans, family, and friends of the basketball player mourned the loss of Bryant, who had retired and was entering the next chapter of his career. But while many remember him on the court, those closest to him knew him differently. Perhaps surprisingly to those who marveled at Kobe Bryant's basketball talents, his life was way more than just shooting hoops. 

Duane Washington Jr said it was always "family time" with Kobe

Duane Washington Jr. told the Big Ten Network (via 247Sports) that he knew Kobe Bryant as simply, "Uncle Kobe," and oddly, they almost never talked b-ball. He said, "It was family time. It was playing Sorry or The Game of Life at my uncle's house, just hanging out with the family, or going to a game and going to get something to eat after the game. I never got to talk basketball with him. One day, we're going to be able to but our time here together we weren't able to and I think that just shows that he was more than just a basketball player and he had such an impact on a lot of different people in this world."

He added that one of the first times he interacted with Bryant was when he was very young. Washington Jr. said that Bryant had his arm around him and marveled at how big he had gotten. "I remember we walked away and he didn't say goodbye and then I looked at him and I seen him pointing at me. And he was pointing at me and his finger was like, it was his pointer finger, and it was all the way sideways. And I was like, 'Uncle Kobe, your finger messed up.' And then he was like, 'Yeah, I know.'" Ever the family man, Kobe Bryant surely would be proud of Duane Washington Jr.'s college basketball career.

Kobe Bryant was a family man

If there is one thing that people might not have known about Kobe Bryant, it's that he had strong bonds with his family and the people he considered family, like Duane Washington Jr. and his uncle Derek Fisher. His wife, Vanessa Bryant, summed up this side of him in her memorial speech for him and their daughter, Gianna. She said at the 2020 memorial, via CNN, "He was thoughtful and always wrote the best love letters and cards, and Gigi had his wonderful ability to express her feelings into paper and make you feel her love through his words. She was thoughtful like him. They were so easy to love. Everybody naturally gravitated towards them. They were funny, happy, silly, and they loved life. They were so full of joy and adventure." 

As Washington Jr. put it, Kobe Bryant was more than just a guy who played basketball so hard that he warped his hands for the ball. He was the kind of guy who played board games and took the time to meet with close family and friends after games. Surely, he's watching over Duane Washington Jr.'s rise at Ohio State University.