MONTREAL - Sunday's tragedy in Southern California involving NBA legend Kobe Bryant sent shockwaves across the globe, and Canadiens players were devastated by the news.
Bryant, his daughter, Gianna, and seven other people were killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas.
Max Domi learned of the accident shortly after the Habs wrapped up their first on-ice session following the bye week break.
Domi, a a big basketball fan and a huge supporter of Bryant, needed a few minutes to process the unfortunate events.
The passing of Bryant and Gianna hit him especially hard, and he was eager to pay tribute to the Los Angeles Lakers' superstar for his accomplishments both on and off the court.
"He's a guy that we all looked up to, not just as sports fans, but just as people in general. He was such an inspiration for everyone. His work ethic and his mindset were unbelievable. He wanted to be the best and he wanted to win. That's all that matters. On top of that, he was an unbelievable family guy. Obviously, I didn't know him personally, but from what you saw, he was a great dad and a great husband. He was someone who cared deeply about the people around him. He made time in his day for everyone that he came across. He lived life to the fullest, for sure," said Domi, regarding the former first-round selection of the Charlotte Hornets who was drafted 13th overall in 1996. "It's so, so sad. We lost a legend way too soon. I mean, he was just 41 years old. I understand in life that everyone passes away at some point, but he was a guy that you never ever thought about losing. He was a guy you hoped would live forever. It's very, very sad."
Kobe left an incredible mark on the NBA during his 20-year tenure with the Lakers. He helped the storied franchise win five championships.
The Philadelphia native wrapped up his career averaging 25 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game, and he was an 18-time All-Star as well.
A standout on the international scene, Bryant claimed gold medals as a member of Team USA in the Summer Olympics in 2008 and 2012.
He became a true icon, in the sports world and beyond.
"Forget about sports, he was an icon across the world. He was a true legend. Everyone loved Kobe Bryant. It's crazy to truly process it, and it doesn't feel real. You've got to feel for the family and pray for them. I'd like to thank Kobe for the magnificent memories he created for all of us," added Domi. "I've looked up to that guy for as long as I can remember. I'm sure millions of people can say the same thing. It's brutal. You've got to realize that he's probably the kind of guy who'd want us all to use it as something to learn from and understand that life is really precious and valuable. We have to make the most of it and really just grab someone close to you and give them a hug. We have to enjoy every second of life."
Domi believes that Bryant served as a perfect example of perseverance and dedication to one's craft.
He left a legacy behind for everyone to follow known as the "Mamba Mentality."
"He came across as that perfect human being, even watching how he interacted with his daughters. He even made a movie and won an Oscar," stressed Domi, referencing Bryant's animated short film, Dear Basketball. "This guy did it all. He spoke three or four languages. He was such a complete person, and that wasn't just given to him. He worked for it all. He was kind of the example for working for everything you get. That guy outworked everyone. If he had a tough game or he made mistakes, he was going to make sure that he wouldn't do the same thing again. That's kind of the mentality that he created and something that will always inspire us all."
Video: WSH@MTL: Canadiens honor Bryants with video tribute
'He embodied everything that was the Lakers'
Having sported Los Angeles Kings colors for 77 games, veteran Nate Thompson was also distraught by the loss of Bryant.
Kobe was a role model for the 35-year-old forward.
"It's just a terrible tragedy. Not just Kobe, but his daughter, and the people on the helicopter. I was kind of in shock. I grew up watching Kobe. He was a guy who really kind of took the sport to another level because of his work and dedication," said Thompson. "When I ruptured my Achilles, I followed his rehab closely. He was an inspiration."
Since the Lakers and Kings share STAPLES Center, Thompson quickly discovered just how important Kobe was to Angelenos.
According to the Canadiens' centerman, Kobe was an influential figure for athletes across every sport.
"The Lakers are everything in L.A. He embodied everything that was the Lakers. He was just a polarizing figure that made such an impact on the court and off the court," added Thompson. "You could see everything he was doing after basketball. You could see the impact he was having after his career, and it's just awful what happened."
Bryant's No. 8 and No. 24 were both retired by the Lakers. He is the fourth-leading scorer in NBA history with 33,643 points.