On Monday night, Lakers star LeBron James reflected on Kobe Bryant's sudden death and No. 24's legacy
"I’m Not Ready but here I go. Man I 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 wrote in an Instagram post showing photos of them together. "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!!"
James and the Lakers were reportedly on the team plane heading back from Philadelphia when players learned of Bryant's death. James was spotted in tears, hugging multiple people and walking with his head down after exiting the plane
He continued on Instagram, writing, "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 sh*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"
On Saturday night, LeBron surpassed Kobe for third on the NBA's all-time scoring list. After the game, James expressed his appreciation of Bryant and said, "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."
Bryant congratulated James on Twitter and wrote: "Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames. Much respect my brother #33644"
The two also reportedly shared a phone call late Saturday night and several Lakers players listened in to the call.
When James decided to join the Lakers, Bryant was publicly supportive on multiple occasions.
"I hear that," Bryant said in Aug. 2018. "But listen, if you are a fan of mine, you are a fan of winning, you are a fan of the Lakers. I bleed purple and gold. So, that's above anything else. I have been a Lakers fan since I was yay high. That is never going to change. Right? [It] is about winning championships. So, they'll fall in line."
And he even reportedly emphasized to Lakers owner Jeannie Buss that James wouldn't have joined the Lakers had she not taken charge of the organization.
"I’ll tell you, when [Lakers owner] Jeanie Buss came to me and said, ‘I really want to go after [LeBron],’ I said, ‘Jeanie, he’s not coming here until you clean up this s— here,'" Bryant said in Oct. 2018. "The last thing LeBron wants to do is come to an organization that has a lot of infighting, a lot of the stuff going on. I said, ‘Jeanie, it’s time for you to take ownership of this franchise. He’s not going to come if you don’t.’"
James joins a host of other Laker greats who paid their respects to Bryant on Sunday.
Magic Johnson called Bryant "the great Laker of all-time." Shaquille O'Neal said that there were "no words to express the pain" he was feeling. Phil Jackson said that Bryant "transcended the norm." Kareem Abdul-Jabbar said he was "much more than an athlete."
Countless others from around the sports world paid their respects to Bryant.
Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, were among those on a helicopter that went down in the hills of Calabasas, causing a fire. The crash occurred around 10 a.m. local time, and the fire made it difficult for firefighters and emergency personnel to get to the aircraft, according to the Los Angeles Times.
LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva told reporters that nine people were on the aircraft—the pilot plus eight others.
Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli, Altobelli's daughter, Alyssa, and wife Keri were also aboard the helicopter and killed.
The Lakers' Tuesday night matchup against the Clippers was postponed and will be rescheduled for a later date. The Lakers are set to play next on Friday when they host the Trail Blazers. Tipoff is set for 10:30 p.m. ET.
More Coverage of Kobe Bryant's Death:
- Kobe Bryant, Daughter Die in California Helicopter Crash
- For the Bryant Family, An Unimaginable Loss
- Kobe Bryant Left His Mark as a Generational Hero
- Sports World Reacts to Kobe Bryant's Sudden Death
- Remembering Kobe Bryant: Sports Illustrated Covers Through the Years
- Spurs-Raptors Open Game With Shot Clock Violations to Honor Kobe
- Shaq Reflects on Kobe's Passing: "There’s No Words to Express the Pain"
- Remembering Kobe and Gianna: For the Bryant Family, an Unimaginable Loss
- Breanna Stewart Mourns Death of Kobe Bryant