LeBron James on Kobe Bryant: "I begin crying again just thinking about you"
LeBron James wrote a tribute to Kobe Bryant on Instagram on Monday, a day after Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas.
"I’m Not Ready but here I go," James wrote. "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! 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!! 😢😢😢😢💔.
"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 shit 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❤️🙏🏾"
James, who looked up to Bryant throughout his career, passed Bryant for third on the all-time scorers list in Saturday's loss to Philadelphia. After that game, he sat in front of his locker and gushed about how much Bryant has meant to him for four-straight minutes.
The next morning, he apparently talked to Bryant on the phone before boarding a flight home. The team learned of Bryant's death while they were flying. A video showed James weeping after deplaning.
After hitting the milestone in Saturday's game, James talked about the impact Bryant has had on him.
James recalled Bryant speaking at a camp when he was 15 years old about the importance of working hard. James told a story of Bryant gifting him a pair of shoes when he was in high school after he drove from Trenton, New Jersey, where he was playing in a tournament, to Philadelphia to meet Bryant before the 2002 All-Star Game.
"I was a [size] 15 and he was a 14, and I wore them anyways," James said Saturday.
James and Bryant never played against each other in The Finals. But they played alongside each other as teammates at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing and the 2012 Olympic Games in London. James was awestruck in 2008, calling it "a dream come true for me to be able to lineup alongside of him."
James said Bryant had "zero flaws offensively," and was truly humbled and honored Saturday after passing his idol in points.
"I'm happy just to be in any conversation with Kobe Bean Bryant, one of the all-time greatest basketball players that ever played, one of the all-time greatest Lakers," James said Saturday. "The man's got two jerseys hanging up in Staples Center. It's just crazy."
After Saturday's game, Bryant wrote his final tweet. He congratulated James on his accomplishment.
James' teammates also wrote heartfelt messages on Instagram.
Wrote Anthony Davis: "Man this is a tough one for me! You were the first guy to put me under your wing and show me the ins and outs of the league. Had so many great convos about so many things and I will cherish those moments forever. Love you forever, Bean! #RIPKobe #RIPGiGi 😔"
Wrote Danny Green: "This is so crazy, We just seen you! Been sitting here thinking of what to say...and there are absolutely no words that can truly describe what you meant to me, my friends and family, and the basketball world/culture that we live in today. We’ve had many so many battles on the court and so many brief interactions off the court but extremely meaningful to me and I’ll never forget them. You were an icon and an idol to us all! You were a God! and your legacy will forever live on. This season will be dedicated to you and the others we’ve lost today. prayers and condolences go out to the Bryant family and the other families that were on board. #RIPKobenGiGi #childhoodnadulthoodhero #824Forever #Mambamentality #JobnotFinished 🙏🏽🙏🏽🙏🏽💚💚💚 #Thisonereallyhurts 💜💛💜💛💜"
Wrote Quinn Cook: "💔💔my hero man. I’m completely crushed. I haven’t cried this much or been in this much pain since I lost my dad in 2008. Yesterday I lost my hero, my idol, & the main reason my love for this game is where it is today. Can’t really process this but we all are devastated and heartbroken about what happened to my hero Kobe & his beautiful daughter Gianna. You taught us all so much on and off the court. Anyone who knows me knows what Kobe means to me and to the entire world. We need to give all of our energy and prayers to the Bryant family and all the families involved in the tragic event yesterday. I will never get over this, I don’t know what’s going to happen going forward but one thing I know is that Kobe and Gianna are up there in heaven TOGETHER smiling down on us all. You were the greatest I’ve ever seen on the court but you were an even better Father to all four of your daughters man. Wow Bean I’m really writing this right now 💔💔. I will cherish our relationship and everything you told me forever. We are already missing you Kobe and Gigi🙏🏽🙏🏽! RiP DAD!
Wrote Dwight Howard: "Truly lost for words. I was not expecting to wake up on the plane and hear the news. Brothers fight, argue even hate each other at times. But we never stop loving each other. I love you, WE love you. Thank you for inspiring the world in so many ways. People let’s make sure we tell each other daily that we love each other. We never know what can happen in life. Let’s appreciate life and each other while we are here. I’m damn shole gonna miss Kobe and Gigi sitting court side watching us this season. May you Rest In Peace Kobe and Gigi. This season is dedicated To Kobe . 💯💪🏾💛💜"
The league announced Monday that the Lakers' game against the Clippers on Tuesday will be postponed because of Bryant's tragic death.
"The Los Angeles Lakers would like to thank all of you for the tremendous outpouring of support and condolences," the Lakers said in a statement Monday. "This is a very difficult time for all of us. We continue to support the Bryant family and will share more information as it is available."