Kobe played basketball for the Los Angeles Lakers throughout his 20-year career and retired in 2016. Just two years later, LeBron signed a four-year, $153.3 million contract with the Lakers, meaning he barely missed the chance to be teammates with Kobe.
As LeBron was leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers and preparing to move to Los Angeles, the two had plans to meet up and swap stories, talk about the Lakers and give advice for living in L.A.
However, they never got around to the meet up—it wasn't scheduled due to their busy calendars. After Bryant died unexpectedly in a helicopter crash in January along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, LeBron is calling the missed moment one of his biggest regrets.
"Of course, you think there's going to be time for us to get together and I understand that there are regrets in life, but I definitely wish I had that moment with him," LeBron told Yahoo Sports. "I do remember when I decided to come here, he sent me a text right away and said, ‘Welcome, brother. Welcome to the family.' That was a special moment because at the time, Laker faithful wasn't [fully in on me]. A lot of people were saying, ‘Well, we might not want LeBron at this point in his career,' and, ‘Is he right? Is he going to get us back [to the Finals]?'"
He added, "So to hear from him and get his stamp of approval, it meant a lot. I don't ever question myself, but when it's coming from Kobe, it definitely meant a lot."
LeBron is taking the loss as a lesson in appreciating the people in your life. "We have to remember not to take life and people for granted," he said.
So what would the basketball legends have talked about at their get together? LeBron speculated based on conversations he's had with other predecessors and greats.
"When I played in Cleveland, I grew up 35 minutes away from there, and so I kind of knew the people. When I went down to Miami, [Dwyane Wade] was able to give me the blueprint on that. But I never played for a historic franchise like the Lakers," LeBron said. "It's probably like when [Alex Rodriguez] went to the Yankees. He probably heard from [Derek] Jeter on what it's going to take to play in front of this. It's different from playing with the Mariners. It's different from the Rangers. I would have definitely loved to get that side of what it takes, what does it take to win over Laker faithful or how can I make them appreciate my game. … That would have been something to pick his brain on."
The 35-year-old athlete continued, "And then probably talk about us never meeting in the Finals. Just apologizing to him. In f---ing '09 when I lost to Dwight [Howard], that would have been a great conversation for sure. You know, just to be like, we didn't give the people what they wanted. We didn't give them what they wanted."
The pals ended up playing on the USA Olympics team together in 2008 and 2012.
LeBron honored his close friend in January with a tattoo that featured a rose, a snake (in reference to Kobe's Black Mamba moniker), Kobe's jersey numbers (8 and 24) and the saying "Mamba 4 Life" below.
He has revealed that he and Kobe spoke just hours before the crash. "Didn't think for one bit in a million years that would be the last conversation we'd have," LeBron said after the sad news broke. He said he was "heartbroken and devastated" after the loss of his "brother." The father of three added, "It's my responsibility to put this shit on my back and keep it going!!"
Other stars have paid tribute to the Black Mamba since his death, including Shaquille O'Neal, who remembered Kobe on Quibi's Close Up by E! News in September. "All the memories are good," Shaq said. "We were the most enigmatic, dominate one-two punch ever created. ... If you have anything to say to somebody, you should just say it. Because you never gonna know what's gonna happen."
Kobe's widow, Vanessa Bryant, recently sued the L.A. County Sheriff and the department over leaked photos of the accident. The lawsuit claimed, "No fewer than eight sheriff's deputies at the crash site, pulled out their personal cell phones and snapped photos of the dead children, parents and coaches. The deputies took these photos for their own personal gratification."
She wrote a post to honor Kobe in August, saying, "I'm mad I didn't go first. I always wanted to go first so that I selfishly didn't have to feel this heartache. You were supposed to miss me. Gigi was supposed to be here with her sisters. It should've been me."