LA Lakers star LeBron James has penned an emotional tribute to Kobe Bryant as he promised to continue the basketball great’s “legacy”.
James, who joined the Lakers in 2018 after an already glittering basketball career, said he was “heartbroken” by Bryant’s death and revealed he had cried every time he tried to write a tribute to his “brother”.
Former LA Lakers player Bryant – considered one of the greatest basketball players of all time – and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna died with seven other people in a helicopter crash in southern California on Sunday.
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A post shared by LeBron James (@kingjames) on Jan 27, 2020 at 6:43pm PST
In a post on Instagram, James said: “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.”
He added: “I’m heartbroken and devastated my brother!! Man I love you big bro.
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“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.
“It’s my responsibility to put this s*** 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!!”
James signed off his Instagram post with the hashtags #Mamba4Life – a reference to Bryant’s nickname “Black Mamba” – and #Gigi4Life.
Tributes continued to pour in from the sporting world and beyond following Bryant’s death as thousands of people gathered to pay tribute at a vigil outside the Staples Centre in Los Angeles, where the Lakers play.
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Oscar-winning actor Jack Nicholson, a long-time fan of the LA Lakers, gave a rare interview to honour Bryant.
“My reaction is the same as almost all of LA,” Nicholson told CBS Los Angeles.
“Where we think everything’s solid, there’s a big hole in the wall. I was used to seeing and talking to Kobe that.. it kills you. It’s just a terrible event.”
Fellow Oscar-winner Robert De Niro said the loss of Bryant, his daughter Gianna and the seven other helicopter crash victims was “beyond horrible”.
“You just can’t imagine something so horrible happening to them,” he said.
“It’s just, it’s beyond, beyond – there’s no words for it.”
Kobe Bryant’s life in pictures
Jimmy Kimmel recorded the latest episode of his talk show in Los Angeles without a studio audience to honour Bryant, saying the helicopter crash was “a punch in the gut for many of us”.
Meanwhile, Ellen DeGeneres broke down in tears during the opening monologue on her talk show as she paid tribute to Bryant and urged her viewers to “celebrate life”.
On Monday night, the Empire State Building in New York was lit up purple and gold – the colours of the LA Lakers – to honour Bryant.
Our lights will shine in purple and gold this evening as we pay tribute to basketball legend Kobe Bryant, an inspiration to millions across the globe who was taken too soon. Our hearts go out to all of the families, friends, and fans affected by this tragedy. #824Foreverpic.twitter.com/m84TbQ2d3y
— Empire State Building (@EmpireStateBldg) January 27, 2020
Tributes were also paid in Italy where he spent some of his earliest years and learnt the language while his father played pro basketball in Rieti, about 50 miles from Rome.
Basketball team NPC Rieti published a photo of a young Kobe on its Twitter account, with the caption: “You made us dream.
“We are proud to have been the first to see you take to the court. We will never forget Kobe.”
The NBA called off the Lakers’ match against the LA Clippers on Tuesday in the wake of Bryant’s death.