Bucs' Gerald McCoy: It was a 'sad day' to hear Kobe Bryant will retire

TAMPA, Fla. -- Tampa Bay had just endured a tough loss to the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday when Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy received some more bad news.

His favorite athlete, Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant, planned to retire at the end of the NBA season.

"It's a sad day in the sports world hearing that Kobe Bryant will no longer be on the basketball court," McCoy said Monday. "He's my favorite player of all time. He's incredible to watch. He's a magician with a basketball. He's a monster defender. I love his competitive nature.

"It has been a dream of mine to sit down with him, even if he just gave me five or 10 minutes, just to talk with what his mindset is how he competes and how he prepares," he said. "There's nothing more important to him, other than his family, than his craft and what he does. I don't think I'll ever have a player I like as much as I like Kobe. Ever."

McCoy wasn't the only one with such a reaction. Bryant’s legacy was appreciated by the Buccaneers' players. To a man, the Bucs were not surprised he announced his retirement. They said they could tell by his level of play this season that Bryant wasn't having fun. Still, they said they will remember Bryant as one of the top players of his generation.

Tampa Bay cornerback Jude Adjei-Barimah was born in Italy -- where Bryant spent a portion of his own childhood -- and said Bryant still had a big presence there when Adjei-Barimah was growing up.

"We have a similar background," said Adjei-Barimah, who moved to the United States when he was 9. "In Italy, it was a big deal with him being in the NBA. That's why he's my favorite athlete of all time.

"I've never met him. But I'm going to see him play this year."

Bucs linebacker Danny Lansanah also has something common with Bryant. Both won Pennsylvania state championships in high school in basketball.

"I'm a Kobe fan because we're both from PA," Lansanah said.

"He went 20 years on top of the game, playing at the highest level you can play," Lansanah said. "He has five championships and two gold medals. He definitely did PA good."

McCoy, a three-time NFL Pro Bowler, doesn't get starstruck often. But during one Lakers game he attended, McCoy was so close to Bryant he nearly lost his cool.

"He inbounded the ball right in front of me," McCoy said smiling. "I was sitting courtside and I was like, 'Dang, this is Kobe.'"