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Lakers' Dwight Howard regrets not telling Kobe Bryant his appreciation

LOS ANGELES — Dwight Howard sat by his locker stall bearing a somber look. The Lakers’ center was still grieving Kobe Bryant’s death. It also has pained Howard that he never cleared the air directly with Bryant during their tumultuous lone season together nearly seven years ago.

“A lot of people thought me and Kobe hated each other. There were times we just didn’t understand each other,” Howard said following the Lakers’ 129-102 win over the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday at Staples Center. “I didn’t get a chance to tell him how appreciative I was of our time together and how thankful I was to be back here in LA. It’s pretty hard for me.”

Howard became the first on the Lakers to hear the news when the team was flying from Philadelphia to Los Angeles on Jan. 26. Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California. After alerting his teammates, Howard  cried. Since then, Howard said he has felt “extremely hurt” and that “there were nights I was crying myself to sleep just thinking about it.”

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Dwight Howard (right) and the late Kobe Bryant celebrate a win during the 2013 season.

“All year long, I wanted to show him that I was going to do whatever it takes to help this team win,” Howard said. “I’ve been wearing his shoes since the season started. I wanted him in the dunk contest.”

Howard shared those wishes publicly following the Lakers’ win in New York on Jan. 22. Before that happened, Howard heard that Bryant expressed interest in helping him out during the NBA Dunk Contest in Chicago (Feb. 15). He called that reality “kind of heartbreaking.”

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