Kobe Bryant didn’t attend a lot of Lakers game after his retirement, but he was still a big fan of the team and its current players. In a new report from the New York Times, Bryant called the team the night before his death to congratulate LeBron James on passing him on the all-time NBA scorers list.
The Times has a long piece detailing everything that happened leading up to the crash that killed Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven others.
This excerpt highlights the call he made to the team hours before his death.
Just as it was getting dark in California, the Lakers were beginning a game in Philadelphia against the 76ers. On his Nike sneakers, the Lakers star LeBron James had written a message for the occasion: “Mamba 4 Life.”
Everyone knew what was coming. Midway through the third quarter, James scored on a layup. The basket lifted him past Bryant’s 33,643 career points, into third place in N.B.A. history.
Not long afterward, from his iPhone, Bryant sent what would be his final tweet.
“Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames,” he wrote. “Much respect my brother.”
A bit after 8 p.m. in California, the two basketball stars spoke on the phone. Bryant wanted to congratulate his friend. James reportedly put Bryant on speakerphone so other Lakers could hear him.
Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames. Much respect my brother 💪🏾 #33644
— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) January 26, 2020
In an Instagram post after news of Bryant’s death broke, James seemed to reference that phone call.
“I’m Not Ready but here I go,” James wrote. “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!!”
He continued, “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!!”