James, who was seen tearing up and hugging multiple people after the Lakers landed in Los Angles on Sunday having just learned of the news of Bryant’s death, poured out even more emotion with his post Monday night.
“I’m Not Ready but here I go,” James wrote in his first comments since the 41-year-old Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others were killed in a Southern California helicopter crash on Sunday. “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!”
The Lakers star last spoke to Bryant on Sunday morning in a congratulatory phone call after passing him for third place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list with his 33,645th point the night before. Several current Lakers players listened into the call, according to The Athletic. Bryant, a five-time NBA champion and future Hall of Famer, had also paid tribute to James on social media after the game.
“Didn’t think for one bit in a million years that would be the last conversation we’d have.” James wrote of the call. “WTF!! I’m heartbroken and devastated my brother!! (four crying face emojis and a broken heart). Man I love you big bro.”
James, who signed a four-year deal with the Lakers in 2018, then mentioned Bryant’s family and wife, writing his “heart goes to Vanessa and the kids” before making a vow to his close friend.
“I’ll continue your legacy man!,” he wrote. “You mean so much to us all here especially #LakersNation (purple and gold hearts) and it’s my responsibility to put this s–t on my back and keep it going!! Please give me the strength from the heavens above and watch over me! I got US here!”
James, who played with Bryant on two U.S. Olympic teams, continued by writing: “So much more I want so say but can’t right now because I can’t get through it! Until we meet again my brother!! #Mamba4Life (heart and praying hands emojis) #Gigi4Life (heart and praying hands emojis)”
The Lakers game against the Clippers on Tuesday was postponed by the NBA and the date of the makeup game has not yet been announced. The team’s next scheduled game is Friday night at home against the Trail Blazers. Tributes to Bryant have taken place across the NBA over the past two days, including at Madison Square Garden on Sunday night during the Knicks-Nets game.