Kobe and LeBron were rivals on the court but friends off it.
Kobe and LeBron were rivals on the court but friends off it.

LeBron’s final phone call with Kobe

HOURS before Kobe Bryant was killed in a helicopter crash that rocked the world, the basketball legend spoke with LeBron James on the phone to congratulate the LA Lakers star on passing him to become the third-highest scorer in NBA history.

Several current Lakers players listened into the call on Sunday (AEDT), according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Bryant, 41, was among nine killed on Monday in the crash about 50km outside of Los Angeles.

The five-time NBA champion's 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, was also killed as they were travelling to Bryant's basketball practice facility in Thousand Oaks, California.

On the weekend, Bryant paid tribute to James on social media after his close friend surpassed him in the NBA record books during a game in Bryant's hometown of Philadelphia against the 76ers.

 

It was during the Lakers' flight back to Los Angeles that James and his teammates learned of Bryant's death.

"Everyone is in shock," a team source told ESPN.

James was spotted tearing up and hugging multiple people after finding out about the crash, which occurred amid a dense fog and is under investigation by local authorities.

While only Dwight Howard of the current Lakers team played alongside Bryant in the NBA before the "Black Mamba" retired in 2016, many if not all of them have been touched by the future Hall of Famer.

James and Bryant, widely considered two of the best NBA players of the past 20 years, won gold medals for Team USA at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics.

James has not publicly commented on the accident but after passing Bryant on the list of all-time leading point-scorers, he opened up about how Kobe had influenced him.

"The first time I ever met him, he gave me his shoes on All-Star weekend. It's surreal. It doesn't make sense, but the universe just puts things in your life," James said on the weekend.

"And I guess when you live in the right way, when you just give it everything to whatever you're doing, things happen organically.

"And it's not supposed to make sense, but it just happens. And I'm happy just to be in any conversation with Kobe Bryant, one of the all-time greatest basketball players to ever play, one of the all-time greatest Lakers."

LeBron always looked up to Kobe.
LeBron always looked up to Kobe.

To honour Bryant, the NBA postponed the Lakers-Clippers game on Wednesday, which would have been the Lakers' first game since the accident.

The Lakers, who are slated to play the Portland Trail Blazers at home on Saturday, brought in counsellors to help members of the organisation mourn.

This story originally appeared on the New York Post and was reproduced with permission


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