Ronda Rousey has largely steered clear of the spotlight since her knockout loss to Holly Holm in November, which prompted a slew of public criticism after Rousey boldly declared she would retire undefeated.
Rousey drew ire from Donald Trump, Lady Gaga and other public figures—but Los Angeles Lakers icon Kobe Bryant was not among those who dished hate.
Speaking at the NBA All-Star festivities in Toronto, Bryant confirmed he reached out to Rousey following the defeat to offer reassurance, per Mike Bohn in a special for USA Today.
“I sent her several messages, so yes, we have touched base,” Bryant said. “That’s what it’s about. It’s not about how you win. A true champion is about how you lose and come back from that.”
Bryant has won five NBA championships and two Olympic gold medals, and he will retire after this season as one of the most decorated basketball players of all time.
But his path didn’t come without heartbreak.
He lost in the NBA Finals twice and entered his final campaign coming off three consecutive season-ending injuries.
The 18-time All-Star said he elaborated on the importance of defeat in his reassurance, per Bohn:
I told her, ‘It’s a beautiful thing.’ That’s what I told her. I said, ‘To be a true champion sometimes you have to get knocked down.’ It happens to the best of us. It happened with my Achilles [when I tore it], [Muhammad] Ali got put down several times—it happens to the best of us.
I think the true mark of a champion is how you get up from that. If she goes through her entire career undefeated, she becomes this mythical figure that nobody can relate to. She got beat. We all get beat at some point or another in our lives. Now it’s a matter of how she bounces back from that. I think that’s what makes her a true champion.