Basketball player LeBron James has got a tattoo to pay tribute to his close friend Kobe Bryant following his tragic death.
Bryant, 41, his 13-year-old daughter Gigi and seven others died in a freak helicopter crash on Sunday, January 26, and basketball players across the world have been in mourning – including James.
James has always named Bryant as one of his heroes, and his last tweet was actually congratulating 35-year-old James on topping Bryant’s own record on the list of the highest scorers in NBA history.
Following his friend’s death, James decided to get a tattoo on his left thigh inspired by the late 41-year-old’s basketball career.
The tattoo appears to be a black mamba snake with ‘Mamba 4 life’ written underneath it; Bryant gave himself the nickname ‘Black Mamba’ because he described himself as a ‘killer snake’ when he stepped on court.
It’s believed James got the tattoo on Wednesday, January 29, and he debuted his new ink at a training session the following day.
The 6ft 9in basketballer was seen running up and down with his right leg covered, but with his left leg – and tattooed thigh – out for all to see.
Bryant spent his whole 20-season career at the LA Lakers before retiring in 2016, while James has played for the team since 2018.
Following Bryant’s tragic death, James posted an long, heartfelt message on Instagram expressing his heartbreak of the passing of his ‘brother’.
Part of the post read:
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! 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!!
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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! 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!! 😢😢😢😢💔. 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!! #Mamba4Life❤️🙏🏾 #Gigi4Life❤️🙏🏾
Just hours before Bryant’s death, ESPN tweeted a video of James speaking about how ‘Black Mamba’ has impacted his life.
In the video, he says:
As I started playing more ball and went into high school, the things he was doing on the floor I admired and wanted to be a part of. I went to camp and he came to speak to the kids, and I was just listening. I tried to soak everything up that I could.
I can remember one thing that he [Bryant] said. He said that, ‘If you want to be one of the greats you have to put the work in. There is no substitution to work.’ I was a 15-year-old kid at that camp. In 2001, I was playing in New Jersey and the All-Star team was playing in Philadelphia.
It’s evident their friendship was the real deal, with the pair continuously expressing admiration of each other’s achievements.
There are several videos of Bryant watching James playing basketball, cheering the 35-year-old on.
James won’t be the only one noticing the empty seat in the front row at the Lakers games.
The team will return to the Staples Center – aka ‘the house that Kobe built’ – tomorrow for their game against Portland Trail Blazers.
If you have experienced a bereavement and would like to speak with someone in confidence contact Cruse Bereavement Care via their national helpline on 0808 808 1677.