• Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Justin Timberlake pays tribute to friend Kobe Bryant, recalling how they met as 'teenagers and bonded over our drive and process'

·Editor, Yahoo Entertainment
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Justin Timberlake is processing the loss of his friend Kobe Bryant.

The singer and actor paid tribute to the Lakers great, who died Sunday at age 41 in a helicopter crash along with eight others, including Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter and two of her young teammates. In the social media post, he wrote about how they met as teens when they were both rising stars in their industries. Through their careers, they were able to support each other, not just at basketball games (Timberlake is a minority owner of the Memphis Grizzlies), but presenting awards to each other at industry events.

INGLEWOOD, CA - JULY 31:  Former NBA player Kobe Bryant (L) and recording artist Justin Timberlake attend the Teen Choice Awards 2016 at The Forum on July 31, 2016 in Inglewood, California.  (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Fox/Getty Images for Fox)
Justin Timberlake says his "heart is broken" over the loss of "brother Kobe Bryant. The men are pictured together at the Teen Choice Awards in 2016. (Photo: Kevin Mazur/Fox/Getty Images for Fox)

Some 20 years after they first met, the men, who called each other “brother,” had started making “old man” jokes when they’d see each other, revealed Timberlake, who said Mamba’s new self-given nickname was “Vino” because he was aging gracefully. They’d chat about their families — and their legacies as Bryant moved on to his post-NBA life. Now, Timberlake says his “heart is broken” amid “this terrible tragedy.”

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.
Update your settings here to see it.

“We met when we were both teenagers and bonded over our drive and process,” said the post written by Timberlake, who turns 39 this week. “I was in awe of what you could do with a basketball and knew your talent went beyond your physical gifts and stretched to your mentality.” He said he took that “Mamba Mentality “with me throughout my whole career and still use every day.”

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 12:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts with Justin Timberlake after Bryant makes a basket in the fourth quarter against the Denver Nuggets in Game Seven of the Western Conference Quarterfinals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs on May 12, 2012 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Timberlake watching Bryant play with the Lakers in 2012. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Timberlake noted that while Bryant remained a “fierce” competitor, winning championships and dominating in his sport, he noticed Bryant’s “patience and ease” grew. “And it inspired me to continue to grow for myself.”

And they had grown. No longer teenagers, they “joked about [being in] ‘the Vino Club,’” as they matured into family men — Bryant with wife Vanessa and their four daughters and Timberlake with Jessica Biel and their son Silas, 4. They were getting older but embracing what life offered.

Timberlake said he was so touched by the “confidence” Bryant had in him “because I admired you so much,” he wrote. “I don’t mean as one of the greatest athletes ever. I mean as a person.”

He also recalled their last conversation, which was “about being fathers and what that meant. That was, beyond all the things that we could do in this world, our true legacy. Who our children are and what beautiful people they will become. And, I guess right now, without being able to find all the words, THAT father connection is what is most devastating for me.”

INGLEWOOD, CA - JULY 31:  Former NBA player Kobe Bryant (L) and recording artist Justin Timberlake attend the Teen Choice Awards 2016 at The Forum on July 31, 2016 in Inglewood, California.  (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Fox/Getty Images for Fox)
Kobe Bryant and artist Justin Timberlake at the 2016 Teen Choice Awards. (Photo: Kevin Mazur/Fox/Getty Images for Fox)

Timberlake said that he and Biel are “sending my love to Vanessa and your family and to the families of everyone connected in the mourning of this terrible tragedy. My heart is broken and my family lifts you up in our thoughts and prayers.”

He ended by writing, “Kobe... You have connected so many of us. The Mamba Mentality will last for all of time. I know that will be a source for me every day as it has been for so many days before. Your legacy is with us. It’s our responsibility to pass it down now. I hope you I can continue to make you proud, Vino. Champ, MVP, Legend, Hero, Inspiration, Father, Friend. I’m gonna miss you, brother. Mamba forever.”

Timberlake has referenced their “Vino Club” before, when Bryant announced his retirement in his “Dear Basketball” letter in 2015 and when he played his final game the next year.

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.
Update your settings here to see it.
This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.
Update your settings here to see it.

In 2016, Timberlake presented Bryant with the ESPYS Icon Award. In his speech he hailed him as a “legend,” alongside other winners Peyton Manning and Abby Wambach.

Weeks later, Bryant gave Timberlake the first-ever Teen Decade Award at the Teen Choice Awards. The basketball star said onstage, “I’m not just a fan. I consider myself a friend.” And when Timberlake accepted the award, he bowed to Bryan before they two embraced.

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.
Update your settings here to see it.

Read more from Yahoo Entertainment:

Want daily pop culture news delivered to your inbox? Sign up here for Yahoo Entertainment & Lifestyle’s newsletter.