An emotional LeBron James turned to Instagram on Monday to express his grief over Kobe Bryant, his former Los Angeles Lakers teammate, mentor and “brother” who died in a helicopter crash at the age of 41.
A “heartbroken and devastated” James confessed that he wasn’t ready to address Bryant’s death and that he struggled to write his statement.
“Every time I try I begin crying again just thinking about you, niece Gigi and the friendship/bond/brotherhood we had,” he wrote.
James said he last spoke to Bryant over the phone on Sunday, just a few hours before the fatal helicopter crash occurred in Calabasas, Calif.
“I literally just heard your voice Sunday morning before I left Philly to head back to L.A.,” James wrote. “Didn’t think for one bit in a million years that would be the last conversation we’d have.
“Man I love you big bro,” James wrote.
On Saturday, James passed Bryant to move into third place on the NBA’s career scoring list following a big night against the 76ers in Philadelphia. James knew he might pass Bryant’s record in the game, so he played with Bryant’s nickname, “Mamba,” written on his sneakers.
Bryant’s final tweet celebrated James surpassing his own total of 33,643 career points.
“Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames,” Bryant wrote. “Much respect my brother.”
James said his heart goes out to Bryant’s widow, Vanessa, and their three surviving daughters. Gianna Bryant, 13, was also killed in the crash.
He also vowed to carry on Bryant’s winning ways with the Lakers.
“I promise you I’ll continue your legacy,” James wrote. “You mean so much to us all here especially Laker Nation and it’s my responsibility to put this s— on my back and keep going!”
He wrapped up the post with a simple message to Bryant: “Until we meet again my brother!”
The Lakers have not played a game since Bryant’s death, and it’s unclear when they will.
Tuesday night’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers has been postponed, the Lakers announced on Twitter.
“The Los Angeles Lakers would like to thank all of you for the tremendous outpouring of support and condolences,” the team wrote in a statement.
“This is a very difficult time for all of us.”