Two of the world's greatest basketball players shared their last words together on Sunday morning. Just hours later, one of them would be gone forever.
LeBron James opened up Monday evening about the shock death of his friend Kobe Bryant in a helicopter crash on Sunday.
In an emotional Instagram post, James wrote that he was "heartbroken and devastated" about the death of Bryant and his daughter, Gianna. Nine people in all died in the crash.
"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 wrote.
James — who now plays for Bryant's old team, the Los Angeles Lakers — shared a series of photos of the pair smiling and embracing, as well as fan art of them both in Lakers jerseys in the locker room and on the court together.
Bryant's final tweet, written the night before he died, congratulated James on surpassing him to become the third-highest point scorer in NBA history.
"Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames," he wrote. "Much respect my brother."
Just hours before his death, Bryant spoke with James on the phone, as several other current Lakers players listened in, according to the Athletic.
Writing on Instagram, James confirmed he had just spoken with Bryant and was struggling to make sense of the loss. "Literally just heard your voice Sunday morning before I left Philly to head back to LA," he wrote. "Didn’t think for one bit in a million years that would be the last conversation we’d have."
The Lakers reportedly learned of Bryant's death during their flight back to Los Angeles on Sunday morning. Cameras captured footage of an emotional James being consoled on the tarmac.
Describing Bryant as his "big bro," James offered his condolences to Bryant's widow, Vanessa, and their remaining children.
"I promise you I’ll continue your legacy man!" he wrote. "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!!"
Federal investigators said Monday that the pilot of the helicopter that was carrying Bryant and the other victims told air traffic control he was climbing to avoid a cloud layer just before the aircraft crashed.