Lakers legend and former NBA star Kobe Bryant tragically died in a helicopter crash on Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020, in Calabasas, Calif. alongside his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna Bryant, and seven other people. The other victims include Orange Coast College (OCC) baseball coach John Altobelli; his wife, Keri, and their daughter, Alyssa. Christina Mauser, an assistant girls basketball coach, mother-daughter duo Sarah and Payton Chester, and pilot Ara Zobayan were also aboard the helicopter, per The New York Times. The cause of the crash remains under investigation at this time.

Following the incomprehensible event, fans are reliving Bryant’s greatest moments on the basketball court, his activism, and of course, his last public message. The incredibly talented athlete sent out his final words to fans via Twitter on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2020, congratulating a dear friend, NBA star LeBron James, for scoring a big accomplishment in his professional life. “Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames,” he penned. “Much respect my brother #33644.” But Bryant’s note wasn’t simply about telling a friend “good job” — his kind words reveal a lot about him as a human being, as well as his deep bond with James. Here’s what Kobe Bryant’s final words on Twitter really mean.

Kobe Bryant passed on the torch to LeBron James

There’s no denying that Kobe Bryant was an incredible basketball player who racked up accomplishment after accomplishment, including his high position of number three on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. Bryant incredibly scored 33,643 points throughout his 20-season career in the NBA, a figure Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James surpassed with his 33,644th point on Jan. 25, 2020, clinching one point over the basketball legend. The late athlete congratulated James on Twitter, saying he had “much respect” for the star, while on Instagram he captioned a photo of the pair, “On to #2 @kingjames! Keep growing the game and charting the path for the next.”

James, who is six years younger than Bryant, has credited his success to the legend through the years. “I was just trying to soak up everything that I could and I remember one thing that he said,” the Ohio native recalled in a video uploaded to Twitter by Sports Center about meeting the dad-of-four as a young person. “He was, like, ‘If you want to try to be great at it, or want to be one of the greats you have to put the work in. There’s no substitution for work.'”

Heartbreakingly, James was spotted seemingly crying when he arrived at Los Angeles International airport after the world learned of Bryant’s death.

Kobe Bryant was committed to uplifting fellow players

Kobe Bryant’s final message to LeBron James effectively proves he was committed to uplifting fellow NBA stars, even at the risk of overshadowing his personal success. The late athlete said as much when asked by The Athletic‘s Bill Oram what he thought about James potentially beating his scoring record, stating, “It’s great. I think it’s great for him. I mean, the amount of work he’s put in over his career, consistency, I think it’s awesome.” Perhaps the former Lakers player was inspired by the humbleness of his predecessor, Michael Jordan, who reached out to him when he surpassed his scoring record in 2014. “That was the most important thing,” Bryant said about Jordan’s kindness. “That was cool. Because it’s such a brotherhood, such an amount of respect between us as players, and you know the amount of work and consistency you have to put in over time so it’s nothing but love and respect.”

Of course, Jordan wasn’t the only player who inspired the NBA legend — his relationship with Shaq was also pretty special. 

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