Bryant, 41, and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, were among nine killed in a helicopter crash Sunday in Calabasas, Calif. The group was headed to Mamba Sports Academy, a facility that Bryant created and coached at, for a girls basketball game when their helicopter crashed under unknown circumstances. There were no survivors.
Durant, who said in 2015 that he "wanted to be like" Bryant, told reporters Tuesday "it's hard to comprehend all of this."
"It's hard to keep going right now," Durant said. "But as a basketball community, as a world as a whole, I know we're all just mourning and sticking together when it comes to this. ... But just having that time and those moments with Kobe, he's always about pressing forward. At this time it's just hard, just the amount of impact he had on all of us."
Durant was selected with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft, 11 years after Bryant was picked in the first round of the 1996 draft. Bryant, a two-time NBA Finals MVP, retired from the league in 2016 after winning five NBA championships and one Most Valuable Player Award (2008) with the Lakers.
Over the nine years where their NBA careers intersected, Bryant and Durant squared off 25 times in the regular season. Bryant and the Lakers held a 14-11 overall record against Durant-led teams.
Durant revealed that Bryant encouraged him on multiple occasions, saying the best advice he got from the Lakers icon was to "just put the work in, man."
"Kobe didn't really have any long-winded messages for me as a player. It was just quick, short gems," Durant said. "And he led by example -- so he came in and worked, and you [saw] it.
"The craft was the most important thing and mastering it, and everything you learn from that is what you're going to be in life. And he poured everything into the game, and poured everything into everybody that was involved with him."
Durant's teammates also were deeply impacted by Bryant's death. Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie announced on social media that he will change his jersey from No. 8 to No. 26 as a tribute to the Lakers great. During Bryant's illustrious 20-year career with the Lakers, he famously wore No. 8 and No. 24.