A day after Kobe Bryant’s death, LeBron James made his first public statement with an Instagram note penned to his fallen friend and former rival.
James posted the message Monday evening, two days after he passed Bryant on the NBA’s all-time scoring list in a game against the Philadelphia 76ers.
James wrote that he spoke with Bryant on Sunday morning after he achieved the milestone.
‘I love you big bro’
“I’m heartbroken and devastated my brother,” James wrote. “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.”
James and Bryant spoke late after James achieved the milestone, a conversation that his Lakers teammates listened in on, according to The Athletic.
That conversation is presumably the one James refers to in his message.
LeBron’s Sunday reaction caught on camera
The Lakers flew back to Los Angeles from Philadelphia on Sunday afternoon. By the time their plane landed, the news of the fatal helicopter crash that also claimed the lives of Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others had broken.
James and his Lakers teammates were seen reacting to the news on the tarmac.
LeBron is met with emotional hugs after landing in Los Angeles following the death of Kobe Bryant.
(via NBC4 Los Angeles) pic.twitter.com/Fx9jt2qZVi
— ESPN (@espn) January 26, 2020
Lakers in a period of mourning
Earlier Monday, the NBA announced that Tuesday’s game between the Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center will be postponed to allow the Lakers time to mourn.
The Athletic’s Sham’s Charania reported that the team was not in a place to take the court.
“These guys are not ready to play basketball right now,” a source told Charania.
ESPN’s Dave McMenamin reports that the Lakers have hired grief counselors for team employees, many of whom had a relationship with Bryant from his 20-year career with the team.
Rivals and friends
James and Bryant were fierce rivals during their time together in the league, but also became friends as many of the game’s top players do. When James entered the league in 2003, Bryant was a three-time champion intent on surpassing Michael Jordan as the best to ever play the game, a status he never quite achieved as he carved out his own path as one of the game’s greatest players.
James has inherited that mantle as Jordan’s greatest historical rival in addition to filling Bryant’s role as the superstar leader of the Lakers.
While he may surpass Jordan in the minds of some, he’ll never succeed Bryant in the hearts and minds of Lakers fans.
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