Jack Nicholson gives rare interview to pay tribute to Kobe Bryant

Jack Nicholson has made a rare public statement paying tribute to long-time friend Kobe Bryant following the basketball legend’s tragic death.

The LA Lakers icon was travelling in a private helicopter alongside 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven other people when it crashed on Sunday, killing everyone on board.

Speaking to sports broadcaster Jim Hill, Nicholson said: “My reaction is the same as almost all of LA – suddenly where everything was solid there’s a big hole. I was so used to seeing and talking to Kobe... it just kills you – it’s just a terrible event.

“I remember him as so talented and how a great player he was.

Read more: Helicopter company to investigate Bryant crash

“I teased him the first time we met. I offered him a basketball and asked him did he want me to autograph it for him. He looked at me like I was crazy.”

Asked about Bryant’s sense of humour, Nicholson responded: “He got all the jokes, that’s for sure.”

Actor Jack Nicholson, top right, applauds Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant after he scored during the second half of Game 2 of the NBA Western Conference basketball finals against the San Antonio Spurs, in Los Angeles, Friday, May 23, 2008. Looking on at left is producer Lou Adler.  (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)
Jack Nicholson applauds Kobe Bryant after he scores against the San Antonio Spurs in 2008. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

The Hollywood legend is a well-known LA Lakers fan and has held courtside seats at their games for many years. After making his last film appearance in 2010’s How Do You Know and his last TV appearance in 2016, Nicholson has become an increasingly reclusive figure.

Read more: Jamie Foxx shares Kobe Bryant clip as tributes continue to pour in for NBA star

Although he told The Sun in 2013 he hasn’t retired from acting, he admitted he had retired from hitting on women. He pulled out of the English-language remake of German comedy Toni Erdmann in 2018 and has not committed to any other acting projects since.

He said of watching Bryant: “I sat right behind his jump shot on the left-hand side I could see him going up and I could tell in the first instance if it was in.

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 18: Actor Jack Nicholson gives the game ball to record producer Lou Adler as they attend a basketball game between the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Lakers where Laker legend Kobe Bryant's jersey was retired at Staples Center on December 18, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevork S. Djansezian/Getty Images)
Actor Jack Nicholson gives the game ball to record producer Lou Adler at a basketball game between the Golden State Warriors and LA Lakers in 2017. (Kevork S Djansezian/Getty Images)

“We’ll think him all the time and we’ll miss him – he was just one of those touched people.”

Loving tributes have been pouring in for 41-year-old Bryant from the worlds of sport, entertainment and politics.

Singer Alicia Keys opened the 2020 Grammy Awards with a heartfelt song dedicated to Bryant just hours after his death was announced.