Former Lakers trainer Gary Vitti reflects on Kobe Bryant's legacy on and off the court

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- As this weekend's Basketball Hall of Fame induction ceremony for the late, great Kobe Bryant approaches, former Lakers trainer Gary Vitti reflects on the time he spent with the NBA legend.

Kobe played his entire NBA career with the Lakers, and Vitti had a front-row seat to all of it. He was the Lakers trainer for 32 years. In fact, Vitti knows the Kobe we don't.

"That was our big joke. I saw him grow up and he saw me grow old," Vitti said.

Vitti discussed how there was a huge difference between the Black Mamba on the court and the tenderhearted side of him.

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Bryant was 17-year-old when he was drafted. If the team needed to give him medicine, they'd have to ask his mother.

Vitti points out Kobe was very intelligent about his body, and while they didn't always agree, they made it work together.

"He really wanted to know what you were doing to him and why, and that's really helpful, actually, because it makes you understand what you're doing and why," Vitti said.

Admittedly, this weekend's Hall of Fame enshrinement is ripping a scab off his healing heart.

It's been more than a year since the helicopter crash that killed Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others. For Vitti, it's difficult to process because Vitti spent 20 years with Kobe on and off the court.
"It's not just about losing a great basketball player. We lost someone who was going to do great things for society," Vitti said.

He's one of the few in the inner circle that can differentiate between Kobe and the Black Mamba.

In the lens of an athletic trainer, Vitti saw plenty of athletes that were bigger, faster, even more athletic than Kobe. But he worked harder and smarter than most, and had a toughness to him that very few great athletes possess.

Kobe finished his Hall of Fame career like only the Black Mamba could: scoring an improbable 60 points and leading the undermanned Lakers to a come-from-behind win over Utah. That night just happened to be the end of Gary Vitti's three-decade plus career with the Lakers.

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