LeBron James spoke out about Kobe Bryant's on Monday, the first time he's issued a statement since the retired superstar died in a helicopter crash on Sunday.
James opened by saying he was still "Not Ready" and that he'd been struggling to compose a tribute.
"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!" he posted on Instagram. "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."
James then sent his love to Vanessa Bryant her daughters with Kobe, before saying he intended to carry on the Lakers great's legacy.
"Please give me the strength from the heavens above and watch over me!" he wrote.
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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. WTF!! I’m heartbroken and devastated my brother!! 😢😢😢😢💔. 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💜💛 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! 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!! #Mamba4Life❤️🙏🏾 #Gigi4Life❤️🙏🏾
James passed Bryant on the NBA's all-time scoring list Saturday night when he scored his 33,644th point during a game against the Philadelphia 76ers.
"On to #2 @kingjames! Keep growing the game and charting the path for the next. 💪🏾" he wrote.
Former Laker Superstars Honor a Legend
Emotional tributes poured in on social media from other Laker greats after Bryant's death.
In a series of tweets, Magic Johnson hailed him as the "greatest Laker of all-time" and noted how much he did for the city.
"My friend, a legend, husband, father, son, brother, Oscar winner and greatest Laker of all-time is gone. It’s hard to accept. Kobe was a leader of our game, a mentor to both male and female players," Johnson wrote. "He was such an icon but also did so much for LA. He was passionate about serving the homeless and was an advocate for women's basketball. Coaching his daughter’s basketball team brought him so much happiness."
In a widely viewed video posted to Twitter, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar -- who was friends with Kobe's father, NBA player Joe "Jellybean" Bryant -- reflected on his relationship with the younger Bryant, which dated back about 30 years.
Abdul-Jabbar also called Bryant an "incredible athlete and leader in a lot of ways. He inspired a whole generation of young athletes."
The NBA's all-time leading scorer noted that Bryant was one of the first players to "do so well" after foregoing college and coming straight to the NBA from high school.
Bryant's former teammate Shaquille O'Neal also posted a heartfelt message on Twitter, saying there were "no words to express" his pain over the loss of Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna -- referring to them as his "brother" and "niece."
"IM SICK RIGHT NOW," he tweeted.
The L.A. Clippers released a statement from the team's front office advisor Jerry West, the Hall of Fame Lakers player turned NBA executive. West was the Lakers' general manager who traded Vlade Divac for Bryant after he was drafted by the Charlotte Hornets in 1996.
"I am so saddened for Kobe's parents, Vanessa, Natalia, Bianka, Capri, Kobe's sisters and all of the NBA fans that hold Kobe in their hearts," the statement read. "I watched him grow from an energetic kid into the man he became, making a difference in so many people's life. He has left the world a better place."
KTLA's Erika Martin contributed to this report.