Western New York native talks about his time with Laker legend Kobe Bryant

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BUFFALO N.Y. (WIVB) – As people throughout the nation mourn Kobe Bryant’s sudden death, one Western New York man is recounting his experience getting to know the basketball legend.

“He was the nicest guy in the world. Always had a big smile, wonderful family man and it’s just a tragic loss today that we’ve lost not just a great athlete but a really great human being,” Bryan Wittman said.

Wittman says he’s met a lot of celebrities during his time working as the Vice President with the Walt Disney Company. He says none left an impression quite like former LA Lakers player Kobe Bryant.

“Back in my time with the Walt Disney company in California, I was very close friends with a lot of the Lakers and the Laker management team and I was there during the time when Kobe was the guy and the star which was amazing to watch him play,” he said.

Kobe, his 13 year-old daughter Gianna and seven others died in a helicopter crash in Southern California on Sunday. Wittman says when he found out, he was devastated.

“It’s been a tough day and I think anyone that would know someone who passed away like that I mean you just think about the memories,” Wittman said. “I think about sitting court side at the Lakers game and watching him play and right in front of me and seeing him at Disneyland and the great memories with him and his family.”

People from all over are outpouring their support for Kobe’s family and the basketball community and Wittman says that doesn’t surprise him.

“I think it’s a very natural thing and with him being such a great superstar that he was and what he met for the game of basketball and for everyone,” Wittman said. “To come out and just do what they need to do to support him and support the family and show all they’re respect to him.”

Wittman says although Kobe’s life was cut short, he won’t be forgotten.

“There was nobody else like him and the way he played and ran around that court and the shots he made,” he said. “You know, there was nothing like him.”

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