Over the last day and a half since Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others tragically died in a helicopter crash, countless people have spoken and posted to social media with heartfelt remembrances of the Lakers legend.
Notably and conspicuously absent was current Lakers star LeBron James, who never played with Bryant in the NBA, but did play on multiple Olympic teams with him. James and Bryant had been gushing about each other over the prior week, too, with James set to pass Bryant for third all-time in scoring in NBA history.
James ultimately did that on Saturday night, and Bryant’s last tweet was congratulating the star he ultimately passed the torch to.
Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames. Much respect my brother #33644— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) January 26, 2020
Bryant surely had no idea how eerie that tweet would ultimately feel now that he’s gone, and he called James to congratulate him as well, a call that a clearly grieving James referenced in a poignant Instagram post about Bryant. James broke his silence on Monday night, (seemingly) with a pledge to take the baton from Bryant and bring this franchise back to a place it hasn’t been since Bryant’s career:
View this post on Instagram
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❤️
It’s hard to read that with dry eyes. If they managed to stay dry, they won’t after this:
LeBron James changed his Instagram picture pic.twitter.com/zsAOD1MwHE— Lakers Empire (@LakersEmpire) January 28, 2020
The fraternity of NBA stars isn’t easy to enter, but over the past few days, it’s been eminently clear how much respect all these guys have for each other. And I don’t want to turn literal deaths into some plot point in a cliche sports movie — all of these victims deserve better than that — but it’s difficult to not believe that James is as motivated as he’s ever been after reading that caption.
That’s not what ultimately matters most here, but what is also clear from reading this — and the other multitude of posts from the team — is that this roster is mourning just as deeply as this fanbase is. Maybe we can all support each other through it.