LeBron James honors Kobe Bryant in emotional Instagram post, promising to keep Lakers legacy going

Kobe Bryant's place in NBA history will always be connected to LeBron James. The two are arguably the best players ever to skip college and enter the NBA straight out of high school. James won his first MVP award in 2009, a year after Bryant won his in 2008. Bryant's Lakers controlled the NBA by making the Finals three straight years from 2008-10 and winning two championships, while James' Miami Heat took over from there in winning two championships and reaching the Finals four times. Bryant was James' predecessor as the face of the NBA. 

He was also his predecessor as the face of the Los Angeles Lakers, James' current team. After Bryant retired, it was James who took on the task of bringing the Lakers back into the spotlight, which he's done to this point as they lead the Western Conference with a 36-10 record. The two developed a close relationship in recent years. The two dapped each other up on the court as Bryant watched James lead the Lakers to a win earlier this season, and on Saturday, James not only passed Bryant on the league's all-time scoring list, but reportedly spoke to him afterward. 

That would be the last time the two ever spoke, as Bryant died in a tragic helicopter accident on Sunday. It took James more than a day to speak out publicly, but the new face of the Lakers finally broke his silence on Monday in an emotional Instagram post. 

James will have some time to compose himself before appearing publicly again. Tuesday's marquee game between the Lakers and Clippers has been postponed by the NBA, so the Lakers will not take the floor again until Friday, when they will host the Portland Trail Blazers

The Lakers will undoubtedly have a tribute planned for Bryant ahead of that game, and James will speak to reporters for likely the first time by then. He will likely still be shaken by Sunday's news at that point, but fortunately, he spoke at length about his relationship with Bryant on Saturday. 

Friday figures to be one of the most emotional games that James, or the Lakers, have ever played. The entire league is still processing Bryant's sudden death, and there is still plenty left to be said by those who knew him best. 

Sam Quinn joined CBS sports as a basketball writer in 2019. Prior to that, he wrote for 247Sports and Bleacher Report. He is a New York native and NYU graduate who also has roots in Florida and California. Full Bio

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