LeBron James Called Gianna Bryant ‘One Of The Greatest’ Future Female Basketball Players Prior To Tragedy

LeBron James (L) and Kobe Bryant (R) look on during a basketball press conference ahead of the London 2012 Olympics on July 27, 2012 in London, England.
Jeff Gross / Getty Images

The death of former NBA star Kobe Bryant has been devastating for LeBron James, who was captured crying not long after the 41-year-old basketball player was killed in a helicopter crash with his daughter Gianna.

A recent Instagram post from Kobe’s widow, Vanessa Bryant, highlights a quote from James, in which he speaks of the potential basketball career he felt lay ahead for Gianna.

“One of the greatest players to play this game took time out of his day on Sunday. He’s got one of the greatest female basketball players that’s about to come up sitting next to him. I’m just trying to put on a show for them.”

The Washington Post reports that James made the comment after a November Los Angeles Lakers game that was attended by Bryant and Gianna — an occasional occurrence for the pair.

James reportedly found out about the tragedy while flying back from Philadelphia with the Lakers after facing the 76ers on Saturday night. The game was notable as the four-time MVP passed Bryant to become third on the NBA’s all-time scoring list, prompting a standing ovation from the crowd.

After making the record, James spoke about his admiration for Bryant when he was younger, pointing to him as an inspiration and noting the impact he had on the NBA.

“He helped me before he even knew of me because of what he was able to do,” he said.

Although the pair never played on the Lakers together, they took the court side-by-side for Team USA at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics.

View this post on Instagram

72-28 Go Mambas ???? #basketballmom

A post shared by Vanessa Bryant ???? (@vanessabryant) on

James appeared to have a close relationship with Gianna as well. In a goodbye message to the 13-year-old and her father, he called her his “niece” and referenced the trio’s friendship.

“I’m Not Ready but here I go. 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!”

Gianna shared her father’s love for basketball, which has been on display for the world after Vanessa Bryant made her Instagram account public. Although comments are not allowed on any posts, she nevertheless gave fans a chance to see pictures of Gianna playing basketball and being coached by her dad.

One video shows Gianna’s skills on the court with her teammates at Mamba Sports Academy, which the pair was heading to when their helicopter unexpectedly crashed. The account also features a photo from the previously mentioned November Lakers game where they sat together at courtside.