“I’m Not Ready but here I go. Man I [sic] sitting here trying to write something for this post but every time I try I begin crying again just thinking about you, niece Gigi and the friendship/bond/brotherhood we had!” James, 35, wrote via Instagram on Monday, January 27. “I literally just heard your voice Sunday morning before I left Philly to head back to LA. Didn’t think for one bit in a million years that would be the last conversation we’d have. WTF!! I’m heartbroken and devastated my brother!! 😢😢😢😢💔.”
The Ohio native continued: “Man I love you big bro. My heart goes to Vanessa and the kids. I promise you I’ll continue your legacy man! You mean so much to us all here especially #LakerNation💜💛 and it’s my responsibility to put this s–t on my back and keep it going!! Please give me the strength from the heavens above and watch over me! I got US here! There’s so much more I want to say but just can’t right now because I can’t get through it! Until we meet again my brother!! #Mamba4Life❤️🙏🏾 #Gigi4Life❤️🙏🏾.”
The news of Bryant’s tragic death came less than a day after James surpassed him for the No. 3 spot on the NBA’s all-time scoring list by topping 33,643 points. After the Los Angeles Lakers’ game against the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday, January 25, James spoke to reporters about his first time meeting Bryant during the 2002 NBA All-Star Weekend.
“Just to make a long story short, now I’m here in a Lakers uniform, in Philadelphia, where he’s from,” he said, via ESPN. “It’s surreal. It doesn’t make no sense, but the universe just puts things in your life. And I guess when you live in the right way, when you just give it everything to whatever you’re doing, things happen organically. And it’s not supposed to make sense, but it just happens. And I’m happy just to be in any conversation with Kobe Bean Bryant, one of the all-time greatest basketball players to ever play, one of the all-time greatest Lakers. The man has two jerseys hanging up in Staples Center. It’s just crazy.”
Later that night, Bryant congratulated James in what was ultimately his final tweet: “Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames. Much respect my brother #33644.”
Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames. Much respect my brother 💪🏾 #33644
— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) January 26, 2020
Bryant died on Sunday morning in a helicopter crash in the Calabasas neighborhood of L.A. His 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven other people were also killed.
The Philadelphia native played for the Lakers from 1996 to 2016. During his 20-year NBA career, he won five championships with his team and was named an NBA All-Star 18 times.
After his retirement, Bryant became an Oscar and Sports Emmy Award winner thanks to his 2017 animated short film, Dear Basketball.
Bryant and Gianna are survived by his wife and her mother, Vanessa Bryant, and the couple’s daughters Natalia, 17, Bianka, 3, and Capri, 7 months.