On Sunday NBA legend Kobe Bryant was among nine people who died in a helicopter crash just outside of Los Angeles. His death affected the sports and entertainment worlds and there were tributes from the NBA, during The Grammys and during the Royal Rumble amongst other places.
Former TNA champion Matt Morgan also played basketball when he was younger and even played against Bryant while in high school. He reminisced about Bryant during Wrestling Inc.'s post-Royal Rumble podcast.
"He's on the Mount Rushmore of the NBA. If you had a top 10, top 8… Kobe was generally always on that. He's one of the greatest of all-time and super influential," said Morgan.
"I got to play him at an All-American camp when I was in high school. He was the Class of '96 and I was the Class of '95. I played him at a five-star camp at the Adidas ABCD Camp and through AAU tournaments because he was from Pennsylvania and I was from Connecticut."
Morgan said as a sophomore Bryant was still one of the best players there and he would knock down three-pointers all game. He added that Bryant wasn't someone who was dunking on people just yet.
"I went to college in '96 and I started seeing these commercials with Kobe in them doing these fancy dribbling moves. He's 6'6" and going to the prom with Brandy. Then he was being drafted into the NBA and I'm like, 'Where the hell did this happen?' He grew three inches over the summer and was dunking all over people," recalled Morgan.
Morgan was skeptical at first that Bryant would be successful in the NBA because he was still so skinny and young. He added that when Bryant came off the bench and got into the game, he played without fear or repercussions.
"That's why he became who he became. He had no conscience or fear for taking huge risks… Just crazy talent and I'm honored to be able to say I played against him 4-5 times in high school," stated Morgan.
Among the others who died in the crash was Bryant's 13-year-old daughter Gianna. The Bryants were on their way to one of Gianna's basketball games as she was an aspiring player herself.
"The worst part is with his daughter," said Morgan. "She was gonna be an amazing, amazing basketball player… It's one of those deals where the whole day just had the air sucked out of it.
"Wrestling was a good distraction for me because I was able to get it out of my head a little bit."
You can listen to Morgan's comments in the video above.