LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – Clippers star Kawhi Leonard revealed Wednesday that he was often flown by the same man who was piloting Kobe Bryant’s helicopter when it crashed in Calabasas over the weekend, killing all nine people aboard.

Fifty-year-old Ara Zobayan was piloting the Sikorsky S-76 helicopter when it crashed on the morning of Jan. 26 in the Calabasas hills amid heavy fog.

FILE — Kawhi Leonard of the San Antonio Spurs is fouled by Kobe Bryant of the L.A. Lakers at AT&T Center on Feb. 6, 2016, in San Antonio. (Getty Images)

Speaking with reporters at the Clippers practice facility in Playa Vista, Leonard said he had flown with Zobayan frequently between his home in San Diego County and the L.A. metro area.

“Flown with him a lot,” Leonard said. “Great guy, super nice. He was one of their best pilots. That’s a guy who you ask for to fly you from city to city.”

Prior to joining the Clippers, Leonard spoke with Kobe about his longtime use of a helicopter to commute between his Newport Beach home and L.A.

“I talked to him about it before I transitioned to playing in L.A.,” Leonard said. “Just seeing how he got back and forth from Newport. He said he was doing it for about 17 years or so.”

“Same pilot, everything, the whole situation, this whole program or setup, he (Kobe) just traveled back and forth the same way I was getting here from San Diego,” he added.

Leonard explained that he would tell Zobayan to say hello to Kobe for him.

“He’ll drop me off and say he’s about to go pick up Kobe…Or he’ll just be like, ‘I just dropped Kobe off and he said hello,’ or vice versa,” Leonard said. “He’s a good dude. I’m sad for everybody.”

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When asked if the crash gave him pause about continuing to use helicopters, Leonard said he was unsure.

“It’s just one of those times…when I feel like…I mean, the things that you hear, you don’t know what’s real yet,” Leonard said. “I can’t really speak on it. I don’t know yet…it’s a lot of thoughts in my head.”

Leonard also described his close relationship to Kobe. Leonard said he worked out with Kobe in the 2018 offseason before joining the Toronto Raptors. He also added that Kobe was one of the first people he called after winning the NBA title last year.

“I thought about him every game, he was a sense of a drive for me last year, just trying to get that championship,” Leonard said.

Leonard disclosed that he often went to Kobe for advice.

“It’s hard to think of the conversations we had together, and right now, to just sum it up in one sentence,” he said.

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