Leonard has used helicopters to commute to Los Angeles since he joined the Clippers in the offseason. In a conversation during the summer, Bryant mentioned his use of helicopters throughout his time in California.
“I talked to him about it before our transition to playing in L.A.,” Leonard said on Wednesday to ESPN. “Just seeing how [he] got back and forth from Newport, and he said he was doing it for about 17 years or so.”
While Leonard has a home close to Staples Center in Los Angeles, he often stays in San Diego. Leonard is a California native and spent two years at San Diego State before being drafted in 2011.
To get to and from, Leonard said he adopted the same helicopter program as Bryant.
“Yeah, same pilot, everything,” Leonard said. “The whole situation, this whole program, the setup, how [Bryant] was traveling back and forth was the same way I was getting here from San Diego.”
The pilot, Ara Zobayan, was amongst the nine that died in Sunday’s crash in Calabasas, Calif. Leonard called Zobayan “one of the best pilots,” and that he sometimes would fly both Leonard and Kobe in the same day.
“He will drop me off and say he is about go pick up Kobe, [and] Kobe said hello,” Leonard said. “Or he’ll just be like, ‘I just dropped Kobe off, and he said hello.’ Vice versa. So, it’s a crazy interaction. He’s a good dude, and I’m sorry for everybody.”
Since the crash, Leonard said he has not had time to think about whether he will stop using helicopters to commute between San Diego and Los Angeles.
“I feel like that … I mean … the things that you hear, you don’t know what’s real yet,” Leonard said. “I can’t really speak on it. I don’t know. I don’t know yet. It’s a lot of thoughts in my head.”
Leonard added that Bryant was his motivation during the Toronto Raptors’ 2019 championship-winning season. The two had known each other personally for the last seven years.
“It’s sad every day,” Leonard said. “You know, you kind of feel like life isn’t real once you start seeing these little monuments or the pictures that people are putting up with his face and the year he was born and the year he died. It’s not all come together yet.”
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