The night before Kobe Bryant died tragically in a helicopter crash on Sunday alongside his 13-year-old daughter Gianna (aka Gigi) and seven other passengers, he took to Twitter to congratulate his longtime friend and fellow Los Angeles Laker LeBron James on beating his own all-time scoring record to become the third-highest point scorer in NBA history. “Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames. Much respect my brother,” Bryant tweeted, in what would be his last public message.
On Monday, the day after news of Bryant’s sudden death shook the world, James responded to the horrific event on Instagram, mourning his mentor, brother, and friend. “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,” he wrote. Now, the NBA star just unveiled a permanent tribute to Bryant: a detailed tattoo — by artist Vanessa Aurelia — on his upper leg of a black mamba snake in reference to Bryant’s nickname, flanked by roses and the numbers “24” and “8,” which he’d used on his jerseys. Beneath the illustration is script that simply reads, “Mamba 4 Life.”
The first slide of the gallery is an image of the two sitting courtside together, with James’ head leaning lovingly on Bryant’s shoulder. By way of a caption, James wrote, “My brother ♾ #Mamba4Life #RIPKobe #RIPGiGi.” It’s an incredibly moving tribute not just to Bryant, but to his daughter Gigi, whose own love of basketball earned her the nickname “Mambacita.” This likely isn’t the last we’ll see of inked tributes to the late sports hero — but given James’ close longtime relationship to the Bryant family, it is one of the most powerful.
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