News that Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash on Sunday, January 26, 2020 shocked NBA fans around the world. He was 41 years old. Hours before Bryant‘s death was first reported by TMZ, he posted his final photo to Instagram.
The photo shows Bryant among the spectators at a Lakers game, affectionately giving LeBron James a slap on the chest. In the caption, he wrote “On to #2 @kingjames! Keep growing the game and charting the path for the next.” On Twitter, Bryant wrote “Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames. Much respect my brother #33644.”
The post was shared in recognition of James passing Bryant on the NBA’s “all-time scoring” list. Per The Washington Post, James secured the #3 ranking on the list on January 25, when he reached a career total of 33,655 in the Lakers’ game against the Philadelphia 76ers. Before retiring in 2016, Bryant scored a career total of 33,644 points.
James Honored Bryant During the January 25 Game
To honor Kobe Bryant’s NBA legacy during the game in which he would pass Bryant’s all-time total points ranking and celebrate his own achievement, James’s Nike sneakers for the January 25 game made several references to Bryant. According to the Washington Post, James’s Nikes featured Kobe Bryant’s initials “KB,” his jersey number 24, and his “Mamba” nickname.
After passing Bryant on the NBA all-time scoring list, James spoke of Bryant’s impact in the NBA, saying “He had zero flaws offensively. Zero. He could shoot the three. He could go around you. He could shoot the midrange. He could post. He could make free throws. That’s something I admired as well. Just being at a point where the defense would always be at bay, where they couldn’t guard you, where you just felt you were immortal offensively because of your skillset and work ethic. I’m just happy to be in any conversation with Kobe Bean Bryant, one of the all-time great basketball players.” He also made reference to their personal relationship and how the momentous occasion had brought it full-circle, adding “He gave me a pair of his shoes which I ended up wearing that following night. I was a 15 and he was a 14 and I wore them anyways.”
Bryant’s Instagram Regularly Featured Photos of His Wife & Daughters
When he wasn’t sharing work-related photos and video with his over 12 million Instagram followers, Bryant was posting about his girls. Bryan married his wife Vanessa in 2001, and the two had 4 daughters together, named Natalia Diamante, Gianna Marie-Onore, Bianka Bella, and Capri Kobe.
A week before his death, Bryant shared a photo of his oldest daughter Natalia in celebration of her 17th birthday. In the caption, he wrote “Happy Birthday my baby. I love you beyond measure. You will always be my little Principessa.”
On July 4, 2019, Bryant used the social media platform to share the birth of his youngest daughter Capri, who was born on June 20, 2019.
Shortly after it was confirmed that Bryant had died in the helicopter crash, a representative for Bryant told TMZ Sports that 13-year-old Gianna, whose nickname was “Gigi,” was also on board the helicopter and killed in the accident.