LeBron James is carrying on Kobe Bryant's legacy.
Like the rest of the world, LeBron never thought the late and great Kobe Bryant would die at the tender age of 41. But for LeBron, it felt even more surreal to learn of Kobe and "niece" Gianna Bryant's death, because he'd spoken to the 41-year-old just hours before their helicopter crashed.
In an Instagram post from late Monday night, the star shares, "I'm Not Ready but here I go. Man [I'm] 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 father-of-three then reveals he spoke to Kobe on Sunday morning as he and the Lakers were headed back to Los Angeles, having played the 76ers the night before. "Didn't think for one bit in a million years that would be the last conversation we'd have," LeBron says.
The 35-year-old reveals he's "heartbroken and devastated" over the loss of his "brother," who he played with on the USA Olympics team in 2008 and 2012 and competed against throughout his career. This is a sentiment shared by Shaq, Dwyane Wade, Magic Johnson and numerous others who grew up admiring and cheering on the late NBA star.
"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," he continues. "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!"
The Lakers player concludes, "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!!"
Before his death, Kobe told the press when he retired LeBron would become "the elder statesman" in his absence. This was proven to be true on Saturday, when James passed Bryant for third place on the NBA's all-time scoring list. It was a moment made all the more emotional because it happened in Bryant's hometown of Philadelphia. Bryant himself marked this achievement on Twitter by sharing, "Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames. Much respect my brother #33644."
As LeBron has said time and time again, Bryant was and always will be an inspiration for him. He told the press after the game that he will always remember meeting LeBron for the first time when he was in high school. "I was just trying to soak everything up I could," he recalled. "I remember one thing he said was that if you want to try and be great at it, and want to be one of the greats, you've got to put the work in."
He and the rest of the Lakers team were due to play against the Clippers on Tuesday, but the NBA announced they are postponing the game out of respect for the players and the profound loss they're feeling.