LeBron James publicly shared his sadness about the unexpected death of close friend and fellow NBA icon Kobe Bryant in an Instagram post Monday night.
Bryant was one of nine people who died Sunday in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, Calif. Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter Gianna was also killed.
James for a long time competed against Bryant as a fierce rival, and he continued to share a close personal connection with Bryant after Bryant retired. Their bond grew even tighter two summers ago when James signed with the Lakers. On Saturday, James moved beyond Bryant into third place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list, leading the duo to exchange appreciation for one another.
“Man I love you big bro. My heart goes to Vanessa and the kids,” James wrote in his Monday night post, which included several images of Bryant. “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!!”
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The past three decades in the NBA have largely been characterized by a single legendary player. Michael Jordan owned the 1990s. Bryant owned the 2000s. James carried the leading role in the 2010s.
Overlap between their careers created a lasting brotherhood between players. Jordan offered his own reflection of Bryant’s life on Sunday. Shortly after hearing Bryant died on Sunday, James was seen exiting the Lakers’ team plane visibly shaken. He needed time to gather his feelings as best he could, finally sharing his heartbreak with the world Monday night.
The scheduled game between the Lakers and Clippers for Tuesday has been postponed due to Bryant’s death, as the organizations continue to mourn.