PORTLAND, Ore. — Nearly three years later, it's obvious just by talking to former Zag Zach Collins that he received the thrill of a lifetime at the Final Four.
"We had no idea he was going to be there," Collins said.
Collins, who now plays for the Portland Trail Blazers, and the Zags met with Kobe Bryant at the Final Four — and he did more than just hand out shoes.
"He didn't just come in and say hi and leave. He came in and talked to us for 30-45 minutes and let us ask questions, let us all meet him, take pictures with him. It meant everything to us and it was just a really amazing experience," Collins said.
The NBA world, and really the world as a whole, was shocked on Sunday when the news of Kobe Bryant's passing broke. The same goes both Collins and Domantas Sabonis.
"Everything we do in the game, we always talk about Kobe. We always compare whatever we do to Kobe. He's the standard. Super sad," said Collins, pausing as he got a bit emotional. "Just to know how it happened. Just so random. It doesn't even seem real. It's hard to explain. Just really sad, really sad for his family. It's tough. It's hard to put in to words."
"Very strange. I don't even know how to explain it. Something's missing," Sabonis said. "It's a tragedy. Our thoughts and prayers are with all the families, him and everyone involved."
When it comes to Kobe, Sabonis summed up the world's mourning perfectly.
"I did not know him personally, but everybody knows Kobe. He's worldwide. An icon."
Former Zag Kyle Wiltjer, who now plays basketball in Turkey, also tweeted about the loss on Monday.
"Sad day all around the world," he wrote.