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"I thought he was going to live forever": Magic Johnson pays tribute to Kobe Bryant

Magic Johnson remembers Kobe Bryant
Magic Johnson describes Kobe Bryant's deep love for the Lakers 19:35

NBA legend Magic Johnson spoke movingly about Kobe Bryant's legacy on and off the court in an emotional phone interview with CBS Los Angeles. 

"I thought he was going to live forever. I thought he was invincible," said Johnson. "He played like that. He walked like that. He was a confident young man."

Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, were among nine people killed in a helicopter crash near Los Angeles on Sunday

In the heartfelt tribute, Johnson shared moments that he had with Bryant, and reflected on their relationship, his impact on the city of LA and his role as a father.

"We will always remember what Kobe Bryant did on the court. We will remember what he did off the court and for the city. I do not think right now that we can put it into words what he meant for Los Angeles. I will miss him," Johnson shared.

"When you put on that uniform, the Laker uniform, there was nobody who took more pride in being a Laker than Kobe. It was amazing."

NBA All-Star Game 2016
Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers hugs Earvin "Magic" Johnson before the NBA All-Star Game 2016 on February 14, 2016, in Toronto. Getty

Johnson played point guard for the Lakers for 13 seasons before he retired. Bryant played all 20 seasons with the Lakers, winning three consecutive championships in 2000, 2001 and 2002.

"We need Kobe to be around. And our kids who idolized him. And the fan base who idolized him. There was more for him to do. He died way too early. And he left quite a legacy," Johnson said.

"He was special. God created the special basketball player and the special man. We will miss him, " he continued. "He impacted the world. And very few athletes get to impact the world like Kobe Bryant did."

Kobe Bryant jerseys retired
Kobe Bryant poses with his family and Earvin Johnson, Rob Pelinka and Jeanie Buss at halftime after both his #8 and #24 Los Angeles Lakers jerseys are retired at Staples Center on December 18, 2017, in Los Angeles. Getty

Bryant was married to Vanessa Bryant and the couple had four daughters together. Gianna was the second-oldest.

"We used to talk about being a father and a husband. Things that were special to the two of us. I will miss the conversations that we had," Johnson told CBS LA.

"We say goodbye to a hero to a legend to an icon. And the guy we will always love and remember in our hearts."

Not only was Bryant a five-time NBA champion and 18-time All-Star, he scored the second-highest number of points in a single game in NBA history. Johnson described the shooting guard as "one of the greatest scorers we have ever seen in the history of basketball."

"If you needed a rebound, he would get the rebound. If you needed the steal, he would get the steal. What I loved about him was the pressure moments in him. Give me the ball. Everybody calm down. I will lead us to victory," Johnson said. "Most of the time, he did just that."

Magic Johnson also took a moment to highlight Bryant's commitment to help those coming up in the league.

"The thing that I love, he shared his talents with other young players. He would work out five or ten NBA players every summer. He would work out WNBA players," Johnson shared.

"He was a great teammate. He would make sure that everybody was OK. He also understood how he could bring every teammate along for the ride. One thing about great leaders is they know how to motivate people, how to get them to be better than they think they really are." 

Johnson emphasized Bryant's love for life and for his family.

"He loved life. He loved doing things. Getting up in the morning was a passion for him. He got his workout at 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning. He was that guy. And he would drive his daughters to school," Johnson said. "He was driven to be a great basketball player. He was driven to be a great father and a great husband. Those things were important to him." 

Johnson, who also took to Twitter to pay tribute to the late NBA star, shared that he had been crying all morning.

"I am not supposed to be doing this. He is supposed to be talking. He is way too young. I was supposed to pass away. He was to talk about me. This is a sad day," Johnson told CBS LA.

"We have had so many great basketball players play for the Lakers, but none greater than Kobe Bryant."

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