Like most of the NBA community in the wake of the tragedy, James struggled to put his feelings into words.
"I'm not ready but here I go," he began before revealing he and Bryant had spoken as recently as Sunday morning, just hours before the 41-year-old NBA legend and his 13-year-old daughter died in the crash.
"I literally just heard your voice Sunday morning before I left Philly to head back to LA," James wrote.?"Didn't think for one bit in a million years that would be the last conversation we'd have."
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??????
James went on to emphasize how much Bryant meant to everyone and especially the L.A. Laker fans and community.
"You mean so much to us all here especially?#LakerNation?and it’s my responsibility to put this [expletive] on my back and keep it going!!"
Bryant and James' NBA careers overlapped for 13 seasons --?a span in which one of them made the Finals in every year but two (2005, '06). The two joined forces on USA Basketball, leading the once-fallen program back to dominance and two Olympic gold medals (2008, 2012).
Two years after Bryant retired in 2016, James became his superstar successor with the Lakers when he signed with the team in 2018. James went on to pass Bryant for third on the all-time scoring list on Saturday, leading to Bryant's final tweet:
Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames. Much respect my brother ???? #33644— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) January 26, 2020