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Lakers Owner Jeanie Buss On Kobe Bryant's Death: 'My Father Loved You Like A Son, Which Makes Us Family'

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – Lakers owner and team president Jeanie Buss broke her silence Thursday with a heartbreaking statement on the death of her longtime friend and Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, one of nine people killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas Sunday.

Kobe Bryant Jeannie Buss
Kobe Bryant addresses the crowd at halftime as both his #8 and #24 Los Angeles Lakers jerseys are retired at Staples Center on December 18, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

"Kobe, I don't know how to express what you mean to me, my family and the Los Angeles Lakers," she wrote on Instagram.

She included a photo of the Bryant family and Buss taken at NBA All-Star weekend in Toronto in February 2016. Also in the photo was Kobe's 13-year-old daughter Gianna, who was also killed in the Jan. 26 crash.

"My father loved you like a son, which makes us family," she went on. "When you invited me to lunch shortly after my father passed away, I was struggling to find motivation and purpose. Kobe, you brought Gianna with you to spend some time with me. You explained that you wanted to show her that women can be leaders in the NBA, just like the men. At first, it seemed like an action of a devoted father setting an example for his daughter. But in actuality – and I am positively sure you knew EXACTLY what you were doing – what you did was give me the inspiration and strength I was searching for. I reflect on that day often and it makes me smile and it makes me strong. I call on that memory whenever I feel down and need a bit of courage. For everything you did on the court that filled me with so much joy and love, for all the lives you changed through basketball itself, it was that day with Gigi that reignited my drive and determination."

The relationship between the Buss family and Kobe has always been strong. In 2017, Jeanie hired Kobe's longtime agent Rob Pelinka as general manager of the Lakers.

RELATED: Kawhi Leonard Flew Often With Pilot Killed In Kobe Bryant Crash

The Lakers organization released its own statement on Bryant's death Wednesday afternoon. The Lakers first game back since Kobe's death will be Friday night at Staples Center against the Portland Trail Blazers.

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