Like many players across the NBA and athletes across the world, Gordon Hayward had a special connection to NBA icon Kobe Bryant, who died tragically on Sunday in a helicopter accident at the age of 41.

Gordon grew up idolizing Kobe. He later got to go head-to-head with the legend known as the Black Mamba on many occasions over the first six seasons of his career, until Kobe retired in 2016. He was on the other side of the court for Kobe’s final game, which saw the LA legend go for 60 points in leading the Lakers to a win over the Utah Jazz.

Just a few months later, Gordon got the opportunity to train with Kobe for an entire week in Southern California. Gordon hasn’t disclosed many details of that week spent learning from one of the best of all-time, but the results did the talking for him.

The very next season, No. 20 was an All-Star for the first time in his career.

One year later, on his first night as a member of the Boston Celtics, Gordon suffered a horrific leg injury, a cruel twist in the path of his career. In the hours that followed, one of the first people to reach out was Kobe, himself no stranger to adversity and injury.

The two NBA All-Stars certainly forged a unique bond, one that was likely only just beginning as Kobe was the father to four girls and Gordon the father to three. So hearing on Sunday, just hours before he and the Celtics were set to take the court against the New Orleans Pelicans that not only was Kobe gone, but so too was his 13-year-old-daughter Gianna Bryant, was gutting for Gordon. He tried to collect his thoughts quickly to speak to the media after the game.

His response was emotional and raw.

Gordon followed that with some more reflection and then took to social media, first Instagram and later Twitter, to reflect.