Mamba lives on. 

As Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James prepares to play his first game since the tragic passing of Kobe Bryant, he's honoring his close friend in a very meaningful way. Lebron enlisted the help of tattoo artist Vanessa Aurelia to design a permanent tribute to the late NBA legend. 

Inked on Lebron's thigh, the tattoo features a snake (a nod to Kobe's Black Mamba nickname), a rose, and the numbers he wore during his 20 years playing for the Lakers. "Mamba 4 life" is scrolled below the snake. 

"My brother," Lebron wrote on Instagram, including the hashtags #Mamba4Life, #RIPKobe and #RIPGiGi. 

Kobe and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna "Gigi" Bryant, were among nine killed in a helicopter crash last Sunday, Jan. 26. 

Lebron and the Lakers organization are expected to recognize the tragedy at tonight's home game against the Portland Trailblazers. As part of the tribute, players will wear a patch baring Kobe's initials on their jerseys. 

Lebron James, Kobe Bryant Tattoo

Jasmine Gomez / @jngvizuals

In addressing Kobe's death for the first time publicly, Lebron revealed that his final conversation with the athlete took place merely hours before the fatal crash.

"I literally just heard your voice Sunday morning before I left Philly to head back to L.A.," he wrote on Instagram. "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!!"

He continued, "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!"

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