Out of the many celebrity messages that poured forth in the wake of Kobe Bryant’s shocking death, many were anxious for LeBron James’ tribute. After a day of silence spent mourning the deaths of his friend of 20 years and Kobe’s 13-year-old daughter, Gianna (Gigi), LeBron finally gave Kobe a tribute that left his millions of Instagram followers heartbroken on Jan. 27. “I’m Not Ready but here I go,” LeBron began. “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!”
LeBron is especially battling mixed emotions, seeing that he just took Kobe’s No. 3 rank on the NBA’s all-time scoring list on the eve of the crash. Now bittersweet to think about, LeBron was wearing Nike sneakers marked with the words “Mamba 4 Life” when he scored the points needed to surpass Kobe’s personal record in a game against the Philadelphia 76ers. Kobe was famously known as “Black Mamba.” Bewildered at how this tragedy happened so fast, LeBron continued to write, “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!! 😢😢😢😢💔.”
As the new face of the Lakers, which LeBron joined after Kobe retired from the same team in 2016, LeBron knows he has to continue Kobe’s legacy that consists of five NBA championship wins. “Man I love you big bro. My heart goes to Vanessa [Kobe’s wife] and the kids [Kobe’s other daughters Natalia, 17, Bianka, 3, and Capri, 7 mos.]. 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!!” LeBron declared. You can read the rest of his moving tribute below. LeBron has even changed his profile picture to a sentimental photo of Kobe holding his daughter, Gianna, who had been training nonstop with her father to hopefully one day become a WNBA star.
LeBron was just 15 years old when he met Kobe in a youth basketball camp. Throughout their two-decade friendship, the NBA icons never played on the Lakers together, although they both teamed up to represent the United States at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics. Kobe’s very last tweet was even dedicated to LeBron. “Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames. Much respect my brother 💪🏾#33644,” Kobe posted on Jan. 25, right after LeBron’s total career points shot up to 33,655 that Saturday evening, which bumped him up from fourth to third place on the NBA all-time scoring list.
LeBron lost his friend after Kobe’s Sikorsky S-76B helicopter crashed in Calabasas on Sunday morning, Jan. 26. Kobe was on-board the helicopter with his daughter Gianna, Gianna’s basketball teammates Alyssa Altobelli and Payton Chester, and the teenagers’ assistant basketball coach Christina Mauser. Other parents were riding on the helicopter as well: Alyssa’s parents John and Keri Altobelli, and Payton’s mother Sarah Chester. The helicopter was en route to the Mamba Sports Academy in Newbury Park, where Gianna was playing a tournament that day. There were no survivors, and the cause of the crash is still being investigated. Heavy fog forced LA enforcement choppers to be grounded that morning, although the pilot, Ara Zobayan — who also died — was allowed to fly since air traffic controllers gave him the green light to use special visual flight rules, according to audio obtained by The Washington Post. Kobe was just 41 years old when he left the world.