James shared the following message about Bryant, who died—along with his daughter Gianna and seven other people—in a helicopter crash Sunday, next to a picture of the two future Hall of Famers embracing each other:
"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! 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 and Bryant are two legendary figures who have defined a generation of basketball for millions of fans. There was nothing but mutual respect between the two, especially after James joined the Lakers franchise that Bryant led for so many years.
While they were never teammates in the NBA, they helped lead the United States to a gold medal in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics.
Bryant's final tweet was a message of encouragement and congratulations to James after the King passed his mark of 33,643 points in Saturday's game against the Philadelphia 76ers:
For his part, James talked about how "surreal" it was to pass someone he looked up to growing up, especially in Bryant's hometown of Philadelphia:
Spectrum SportsNet @SpectrumSN
"He gave me a pair of his shoes which I ended up wearing that following night. I was a 15 and he was a 14 and I wore them anyways." @KingJames talks about his relationship with @kobebryant coming full circle after passing him on the NBA's all-time scoring list. 🤝 #Lakers https://t.co/n6p4nN5sQk
The respect between the two legends was clear, and a heartbroken James promised to do his best to continue Bryant's legacy in the purple and gold.