LeBron James has broken his silence on the death of Kobe Bryant, revealing he spoke with his "big bro" hours before Sunday's helicopter crash. "I literally just heard your voice Sunday morning before I left Philly to head back to LA," reads an Instagram post from James, who was seen departing the Los Angeles Lakers' team plane in tears on Sunday. In a final tweet, Bryant had congratulated James on topping 33,643 NBA points in Saturday's game against the Philadelphia 76ers, which meant he overtook Bryant as the third-highest scorer in NBA history. "Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames," Bryant wrote, giving "much respect" to his former teammate on the US Olympic team.
The pair first met as Bryant took part in the 2002 all-star game. The so-called "Black Mamba" gave James, then a high school junior, a pair of shoes, per the New York Times, which reports James honored Bryant on Saturday by wearing shoes reading "Mamba 4 Life." "I'm heartbroken and devastated," James wrote Monday, noting "every time I try [to write] I begin crying again just thinking about you, niece Gigi and the friendship/bond/brotherhood we had!" "You mean so much to us … and it's my responsibility to put this s**t on my back and keep it going!!" he continued in the post liked 11.6 million times in 11 hours. "Please give me the strength from the heavens above and watch over me!" he added. "Man I love you big bro." (See other reactions here.)