"He was the basketball version of me, and I was the rap version of him, and that’s facts!"
That's Kanye West ... explaining why he and Kobe Bryant were one and the same -- LEGENDARY -- and in typical Kanye style, he's not holding back.
It's spelled out in a candid (just released) interview with GQ that went down back in February, less than a month after his good pal Kobe died in a helicopter crash very close to Kanye's Calabasas-area home.
As part of the interview, Kanye agreed to take photos on a basketball court -- and admitted, it was therapeutic.
"One thing I thought was really amazing is that we were able to find a groove with the photographs today even as out of it as I was with the loss of Kobe," Kanye said.
"We were able to just go to the court and play ball."
Kanye says he often drives on a street near the spot of the helicopter crash ... and it makes him motivated to dominate in life like his friend Kobe did.
"There’s no way for me not to be as determined as Kobe every time I drive down that street. It’s game time. There’s no move that we can’t make, or that we’ll wait to make."
Of course, Kanye and Kobe were close friends for years -- they trained together, starred in Nike commercials together ... and Kanye was even courtside for Kobe's last game.
Now, Kanye says he continues to draw motivation from Kobe -- attacking challenges in life and business with that trademark Mamba Mentality.
"Everyone in our life is now a member of the Lakers on one of Kobe’s championship teams. The way that Kobe would say that we all have to come together and win this championship is the way I look at life now."
He added, "We came up at the same time, together. And now it’s like, yeah, I might have had a reputation for screaming about things -- but I’m not taking any mess for an answer now. We’re about to build a paradigm shift for humanity. We ain’t playing with ’em. We bringing home the trophies."