One of the final phone calls Kobe Bryant made was to LeBron James. The former Lakers star rang up his successor to congratulate him for passing him for third place on the NBA’s All-Time scoring list last weekend, just the night before he tragically died in a helicopter crash along with eight others — including his barely teenaged daughter — on Sunday.
The loss has hit everyone in Southern California hard, with James feeling it right along with them. James hasn’t spoken to the media since Bryant’s death, but in an Instagram post he wrote to Bryant earlier this week, he was clearly heartbroken about the loss of his friend.
“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,” James wrote. “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!”
Seemingly to serve as a permanent reminder to himself of the commitment he made to Bryant, James commemorated his friend with an intricate new tattoo on his leg this week, and he posted a photo of it to Instagram on Friday before the Lakers took on the Portland Trail Blazers:
LeBron just posted this photo on Instagram of his new tattoo pic.twitter.com/2XbXCbIiPe— Ali B (@ali_behpoornia) February 1, 2020
This is just the latest sign that James and Bryant may have been closer than previously thought, making this loss even more heartbreaking than it already was.
Bryant had reportedly not just been coming to games this season, but Lakers practices as well. And according to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN, the two stars had been speaking far more often than most knew:
James and Bryant had just started to grow closer this year. For most of their careers, they’d shared a mutual respect but kept a healthy competitive distance. Two alpha dogs eyeing each other. As recently as last season, when James joined the Lakers, they hadn’t been especially close. But things started changing this season when Bryant attended a game at Staples Center with Gianna and James came over to greet them.
They started talking regularly, building the type of relationship they each probably always wanted. They had even talked early Sunday morning — Bryant called to congratulate James for passing him on the all-time scoring list.
Those would ultimately be Bryant’s last words to James. His final tweet was a challenge to his friend to “continue to move the game forward.” James will now attempt to do so, with a little part of Bryant along for the ride.