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WNBA legend Lisa Leslie says Kobe Bryant was changing mindsets on women's basketball

WNBA star Lisa Leslie on Kobe Bryant
WNBA star Lisa Leslie on Kobe Bryant's rise and legacy 05:33

WNBA champion and Olympic gold medalist Lisa Leslie, one of Kobe Bryant's longtime friends, said the NBA legend was changing people's perceptions on women's basketball. In part because of his 13-year-old daughter Gianna's interest in the sport, Bryant was often spotted at WNBA games.

"He was really making change," Leslie told "CBS This Morning" co-host Gayle King in her Florida home. "He was changing the mindsets of other men more than anybody else. He's validating us, if you will, these young ladies who are out there playing, the fact that he's enjoying and being entertained by great basketball."

King told Leslie she heard that after retiring, Bryant would spend more time at WNBA games than he would at the Lakers games.

"It's true but I think it's also because Gigi wanted to see certain players, and she was into it," Leslie said.

Leslie said she remembers Bryant telling her how good of a player Gianna was. "He was like, 'Lis, like, she got it,'" she said.

Gianna didn't have the chance to reach her full potential before the helicopter crash that killed her, her dad and seven others, Leslie said.

"We know what Kobe's accomplished, but Gigi hadn't, she didn't have the full opportunity to do that," she said, adding that Gianna had the mentality to succeed like her dad. "Mambacita was going to make it," she said, referencing her NBA dad's "Black Mamba" nickname. "She was going to be in the WNBA."

Leslie met Bryant when he was 18 years old, before his rookie season with the Los Angeles Lakers and before her debut with the Sparks. One of the things she remembers from the time they met was his obsession with Michael Jordan.

Leslie recalled him watching videos of Jordan when she went over to his house.

"He's clicking and pausing. 'Look, look, look, Lis, watch, watch,'" she said.

Asked if he was studying Jordan, Leslie said, "Beyond studied. I mean, he would, like, obsess over watching these videos."

Leslie said Bryant "imitated everything Jordan did."

"If you watch Kobe's interviews, the way he talks, the way he moves his mouth, when he licks his lip, when he puts his tongue out when he played … Everything was about Michael Jordan," she said. "That's the player that meant everything to him, and he wanted to be great. Not good, but great, like Michael Jordan."

When asked if she remembers Bryant as arrogant and aloof, as some people have called him, Leslie said "there is arrogance."

"But the arrogance is not in everyday life. The arrogance is in the world of basketball," she said. "On the basketball court, you're not my friend, and I'm not your friend, and it's either kill or be killed. I'm going to attack you. I'm going for the jugular at all times."

Commenting on why so many people were affected by Bryant's death even if they didn't know him, Leslie said, "I really think it's the idea that you rooted for him or you didn't, but that was an emotion evoked either way."

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