“It’s unfortunate,” Sherman said Monday at Super Bowl Opening Night. “It’s really sad. He was a friend of mine. He was a mentor. He meant a lot to this world. He had a positive impact and there’s nothing that I can say that can quantify his impact on myself and others. I just know how he would’ve wanted me to take this, to react, especially in this moment and in this game.
“I was really sad yesterday and I was sad this morning. I was kind of down and I was in the dumps and I just thought about what he would tell me. He would tell me to stop being a baby and man up and play it and do it in his honor and win this game for him. And that’s what we’re going to try to do. We’re going to try to go out there and play some dominating ball, just like he wanted. The Mamba mentality lives on.”
Bryant died in a helicopter crash Sunday in Calabasas, California, along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna Bryant and seven others. The helicopter was on the way to an AAU basketball game that Gianna was set to play in.
Sherman, a native of Compton, California, grew up a Los Angeles Lakers fan and has said that Bryant was his favorite player. Sherman and Bryant met after the cornerback became a star in his own right for the Seattle Seahawks. Bryant also once played alongside Sherman when the veteran NFL standout held a charity softball game in Seattle.
“He meant a lot,” Sherman said Monday. “He meant a lot to the city of L.A. He’s a tremendous idol. Like I said, there’s not enough praise I can give him. There’s not enough words in my vocabulary to give him the praise and the respect that he deserves, but he deserves every inch, every ounce of respect, every ounce of gratitude. He gave me a ton of inspiration, and I’m sure he inspired millions and millions of other kids. There’s no limit to the impact he’s had on my city and other cities around the world.”
Sherman shared a heartfelt message on his verified Instagram page Sunday after news about Bryant’s passing broke.
“I don’t have the words to describe what this man has meant to me,” Sherman wrote in the Instagram caption. “It pains me to the soul to hear he is gone so soon. Don’t get the chance to express how much his words inspired me and his actions gave me a blueprint to be great. A genuine human being this one hurts.”
The pair became close after Sherman tore his Achilles tendon in November 2017. Sherman has said that he relied on Bryant for counsel given that the 18-time NBA All-Star also suffered the same injury in April 2013 and returned to finish off the final years his basketball career.
“When I tore my Achilles, I wanted to walk off the field,” Sherman posted in a message to his verified Twitter account in December 2017. “Because that’s what Kobe did. He continues to inspire me.”
On Monday, Sherman reiterated that message.
“I guess my biggest Mamba mentality moment of my career was getting up from a torn Achilles and walking off the field,” Sherman said Monday. “I saw him do it. I saw him make two free throws and walk off with a torn Achilles and once I tore mine, I knew I had to walk off. Like I said before, we’re different animals, but the same beast. We’re built with a lot of the same stuff and I had to be able to walk that off.”
Sherman, 31, is set to play in his third Super Bowl, but his first with the San Francisco 49ers, who will take on the Chiefs on Sunday in Super Bowl LIV in Miami Gardens, Florida.
Follow Lorenzo Reyes on Twitter @LorenzoGReyes.