The actor, a Los Angeles Lakers superfan who is often spotted watching games court side, gave a rare interview on Sunday as he called into CBS in Los Angeles to react to the news both Bryant and his daughter had been killed in a helicopter crash that also claimed the lives of seven other passengers.
"My reaction is the same as almost all of LA," began the Oscar-winner. "Where we think everything's solid, there's a big hole in the wall. I was used to seeing and talking to Kobe that ... it kills you. It's just a terrible event."
When asked what he'll remember most about Bryant, Nicholson said, "in totality, just how great a player he was." Bryant is easily considered one of the greatest NBA players of all time and the actor shared one of his very first interactions with him during his interview.
"I teased him the first time we met," he recalled. "It was at the Garden in New York and I offered him a basketball and asked him did he want me to autograph it for him. He looked at me like I was crazy."
He added that Bryant had a great sense of humor, saying, "He got all the jokes, that's for sure."
Nicholson ended his interview by saying how he'll remember the former basketball pro. "We'll think of him all the time and we'll miss him," he said, "He just was one of those touched people."
Click the link below to see how more Hollywood stars and professional athletes reacted to the news: