WASHINGTON -- Alex Ovechkin wore a No. 24 Washington Capitals jersey to honor Kobe Bryant during warm-ups prior to the Capitals' game against the Nashville Predators at Capital One Arena on Wednesday.
Bryant and his daughter Gianna died along with seven others in a helicopter crash on Sunday. Bryant, who retired from the NBA in 2016, spent his entire 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Ovechkin, who usually wears No. 8, was a longtime Bryant admirer.
"It was our idea because he was a legend," Ovechkin said of the gesture. "He was a great person, obviously one of the great athletes of all time. To do that kind of stuff, it's all about respect. It's all about remembering him and his daughter. It's tough, but it's hard to say something."
Ovechkin first shared his thoughts on the tragedy at practice in Montreal on Sunday.
"I was hoping it was not true," Ovechkin said. "You don't want to hear somebody (is in a) crash in a helicopter and passes away. It's tough. I know him, he always treated me well when he saw me. It's hard. He was a legend in the basketball world, in the whole world. I still can't believe it."
Ovechkin's No. 24 jersey will be signed and put up for auction benefitting the Kobe & Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation. The Capitals plan to announce details of the auction at a later date. They also held a moment of silence for eight seconds, Bryant's other jersey number with the Lakers, to honor the victims of the crash.
Ovechkin said he met Bryant three or four times, including at a Lakers game in Los Angeles in 2016 when Bryant gave him his signed jersey and sneakers.
"He always shook my hand, he knows who I am," Ovechkin said. "I remember when I was in the stands and he'd point to me. It's hard, it's hard."
The Capitals captain grew up following basketball. His mother, Tatyana, played professional basketball in the Soviet Union and won Olympic gold medals with the national team in 1976 and 1980.