SAN ANTONIO — The anguish etched on their faces, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich and veteran forward DeMar DeRozan spoke about Kobe Bryant's death somberly when they met with the media after Sunday's 110-106 loss to the Toronto Raptors.
Bryant, 41, was among nine people killed, including his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, when the helicopter they were riding in crashed Sunday in Calabasas, Calif.
"So many millions of people loved him for so many different reasons," Popovich said. "It's just a tragic thing. There are no words that can describe how everybody feels about it."
DeRozan, the only Spurs player to speak to the media, blinked back tears as he talked about a player he said meant "everything" to his basketball career.
"Words can't explain it," DeRozan said. "For myself, learning everything I've learned basketball-wise from Kobe. What he meant to the game, the inspiration that he brought to the world.
"Not just that, his daughter. I'm a father. I can't imagine something like that happening. It's a sad, sad day."
Bryant became one of the NBA's iconic players during a 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers. He won five league championships before he retired after the 2015-16 season.
Popovich thanked the media for allowing Spurs players to grieve alone in the team's locker room after the game. The media always go in the locker room after games to get interviews.
"Everybody is pretty emotional about the tragedy with Kobe," Popovich said. "All of us know what a great player he was, but he went beyond great playing. He was a competitor that goes unmatched and it is what made him, as a player, so attractive to everybody.
"That focus, that competitiveness and that will to win. And even more importantly than that, we all feel a deep sense of loss for what he means to all of us in so many ways."
DeRozan talked about what Bryant meant to him as he grew up in Compton, Calif., just a stone's throw from Los Angeles.
"Everything, everything," DeRozan said. "Everything I learned came from Kobe. Everything. Take Kobe away, I wouldn't be here. I wouldn't have love. I wouldn't have passion, the drive. Everything, everything, came from him."
The Raptors and Spurs had a poignant tribute to Bryant after the opening tipoff Sunday, dribbling away their first possessions until the 24-second shot clock expired.
Fans chanted "Kobe, Kobe, Kobe" as Toronto guard Fred VanVleet and Spurs guard Dejounte Murray each let 24 seconds run off the clock as they stood and dribbled. Bryant wore jersey No. 8 and No. 24, both of which have been retired by the Lakers, during his career.
DeRozan said Toronto coach Nick Nurse came up with the idea to honor Bryant in such a way.
"Nick Nurse came over and I think he mentioned something to Pop," DeRozan said. "We all talked about it. I don't know who exactly came up with it, but once we heard it, we respected it on both ends, and that's why we did what we did."
Popovich closed by talking about the pain Bryant's family is experiencing.
"We all think about the family and the process that they are going to be going through now," he said. "That's where all of our thoughts should be."
The Spurs later released a statement by RC Buford, Spurs Sports & Entertainment CEO.
“Kobe inspired all of us," Buford said in the release. "In San Antonio, we were blessed to have enjoyed a front row seat to his greatness. He had an unmatched combination of determination, skill, competitiveness, personality, grace, passion and intelligence. The loss of Kobe and Gianna leaves a giant hole in our hearts. It’s impossible to express the pain we feel for Vanessa and the Bryant family.”
Toronto center Marc Gasol was one of two Raptors players who spoke to the media after the game. He talked about the challenge of playing after such a tragedy.
“You can imagine how hard it is to do your job at that point, because you’re not thinking about work. You’re not thinking about your profession," Gasol said. 'You’re not thinking about points, or anything like that. You’re thinking about life and what’s really important, the bare necessities for you as a human being and how all that can be gone in a split second.
"I thought that everyone did a tremendous job of stepping up and trying to put everything together. But at the same time, you think about his family and his friends and the situation that they’re going through. So, you just want to go home and kiss your kids and your wife, and the rest is just irrelevant right now.”