MANILA, Philippines – NBA superstar LeBron James said he was "heartbroken and devastated" over the death of Kobe Bryant, vowing in an Instagram post on Monday, January 27 (Tuesday, January 28, Philippine time) to continue Bryant's legacy with the Los Angeles Lakers.
James admits he has yet to pull himself together after Kobe and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna died in a helicopter crash on Sunday.
Bryant, a five-time NBA champion in 20 seasons with the Lakers, died at age 41 in a helicopter crash only hours after James overtook him for the 3rd spot in the league's all-time scoring list.
James was on a flight back from Philadelphia to Los Angeles when news of the tragedy broke and the Lakers superstar immediately broke down in tears when he landed in LAX.
"I'm heartbroken and devastated my brother," James posted. "Man I love you big bro.
"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!!
It took James a day to release his first statement on Instagram, revealing that he is still overwhelmed with emotions.
"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."
James – who made a blockbuster move to the Lakers last NBA season – was also devasted that he just spoke to Bryant before the fatal chopper crash.
"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!!" saidJames.
The three-time NBA champion surpassed Bryant for No. 3 in the NBA all-time scoring list after dropping 29 points against the Philadelphia 76ers to tally a total of 33,644 points.
Bryant once held the No. 3 spot with 33,643 points in 20 NBA seasons.
Even the late Lakers legend's last tweet was dedicated to James. (READ: Shaq, Magic, Kareem, other Laker greats pay tribute to Kobe Bryant)
Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames. Much respect my brother #33644 — Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) January 26, 2020
Bryant retired in 2016, the same year James fulfilled his life dream of winning an NBA title with his hometown club, the Cleveland Cavaliers.
"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!," said James.
Although James and Bryant never played on the same team in the NBA, both basketball superstars teamed up to lead Team USA to back-to-back Olympic golds in 2008 and 2012.
This season, the Lakers hold the second-best record in the NBA at 36-10 to lead the Western Conference, with James averaging 25.3 points, 7.7 rebounds and a league-best 10.7 assists a game.
The NBA postponed the Lakers game against the Los Angeles Clippers set Tuesday in the wake of Bryant's tragic death. – with a report from Agence France-Presse