It’s unlikely the NBA has a more loyal fan base than Kobe Bryant’s.
If that weren’t enough, Granderson, an eight-time All-Star, is among the closest associates of Bryant.
He’s the first guy he checks in with on a shooting day and has always been there when Bryant needs a shoulder to lean on.
But on Friday, he faced the challenge of supporting his friend and former Lakers teammate in the aftermath of Bryant’s recent death and learning of his extended stay in a hospital, where he was being treated for yet another bout of depression.
“I was there,” Granderson said. “I know what type of person he was. I know what type of champ he was, and I’m definitely going to miss that.”
In a touching letter posted on his website, Bryant admitted he suffered for years with a “series of inner demons.”
“Right before he passed, he told me that I was his world,” Granderson said of Bryant. “We did so much together. At the end of the day, I’m not his team, but I’m his guy. That’s the same way I treat him today, to stay open and honest and try to help him to open up.”
Unlike Bryant, Granderson is not known as being willing to confront depression and mental health issues himself.
Instead, he credits Dr. Jeffrey Mogil, UCLA’s director of integrative medicine, as the guy who has kept him from going down the wrong path with his medications and taking his life.
“I owe so much to that guy,” he said. “For everyone who’s dealing with depression, thoughts of suicide, or eating disorders, if you can find that person who’s right there who’s willing to stick up for you and stick up for your point of view, it’s always going to help you tremendously.”
Mogil added: “We’re all broken. He goes through the trials and tribulations of a very full life, and has turned them into his greatest gift — his passion, passion for the game of basketball, but also the gift to share his struggles with others in hopes that they can find the same happiness that he found.”
In his emotional letter, Bryant expressed wanting to see more efforts by the NBA to increase awareness about mental health issues and his own recent efforts in this regard with raising $125,000 for concussion research and donating $100,000 to help children’s hospitals.
Bryant would have been part of the NBA’s “We Take Care of Our Own” campaign.
“He would’ve loved that,” Granderson said. “I just hope the public starts focusing more on this subject.”
Another wise choice
Chicago Bulls’ Michael Carter-Williams was named the Eastern Conference’s Most Improved Player.
Carter-Williams averages 13.4 points, 7.2 assists and 4.2 rebounds.