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Justin Timberlake Honors Kobe Bryant Friendship, From Their Teens to Fatherhood

The sudden death of NBA legend Kobe Bryant has stunned fans across the globe, but for Justin Timberlake, the tragedy hits close to home as he reflected on their friendship in a lengthy Instagram post Monday (Jan. 27).

Timberlake shared a series of touching photos of the two throughout the years, most notably a couple of black-and-white shots from the 2016 ESPY Awards, when Timberlake honored Bryant, alongside former NFL quarterback Peyton Manning and retired USWNT soccer player Abby Wambach, with the Icon Awards.

“We met when we were both teenagers and bonded over our drive and process. 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”, Timberlake wrote, delving into Bryant’s influential Mamba Mentality that drove his professional basketball career. “A mentality that I would take with me throughout my whole career and still use every day. As the years went by, I watched you do things that seemed humanly unimaginable. And, through ups and downs, championships and injuries, you still remained with an unwavering resolve about your mentality to remain fierce to competition”.

The Grammy-winning pop star unpacked their close bond while recounting silly moments, like the five-time NBA champion nicknaming himself “Vino” to “represent how one could age gracefully as a fine wine does” and a candid courtside shot of Bryant and Timberlake high-fiving each other during a Lakers game. But out of all the memories, what Timberlake remembers the most about him — and what hurts the most after his passing — is their shared passion for being a father.

“The last conversation that we shared was about being fathers and what that meant”, he recalled in the post. “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”.

Bryant died alongside his 13-year-old daughter Gianna “Gigi” Bryant, who shared her dad’s deep love of basketball.

We met when we were both teenagers and bonded over our drive and process. 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. A mentality that I would take with me throughout my whole career and still use every day. As the years went by, I watched you do things that seemed humanly unimaginable. And, through ups and downs, championships and injuries, you still remained with an unwavering resolve about your mentality to remain fierce to competition. But, every time we would speak or text, something started to change… your patience and ease grew. And it inspired me to continue to grow for myself. Years passed, and the “old man” jokes would start to be traded back and forth. We both appreciated a good “ribbing”. We joked about “The Vino Club”. You nicknamed yourself ‘Vino’ to represent how one could age gracefully as a fine wine does. But, you never stopped aiming to inspire me. Your confidence in me was huge – it really affected me because I admired you so much. I don’t mean as one of the greatest athletes ever. I mean as a person. People sometimes can confuse a will to win with a lack of compassion. That wasn’t you. You had both qualities. The last conversation that we shared 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. I am 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.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 I can continue to make you proud, Vino. Champ, MVP, Legend, Hero, Inspiration, Father, Friend. I’m gonna miss you, brother. Mamba forever.

Billboard

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