Justin Timberlake posts Instagram tribute to longtime friend Kobe Bryant

Justin Timberlake posts Instagram tribute to longtime friend Kobe Bryant
From the WMC Archives: Kobe Bryant’s last game in Memphis (Source: WMC Action News 5)

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - A day after retired NBA star Kobe Bryant died in a California helicopter crash, Memphis’ own Justin Timberlake memorialized the legend on Instagram, recounting their years-long friendship that started when they were teenagers.

Timberlake writes that he watched Bryant’s career in awe, taking inspiration from him through ups and downs and using Bryant’s “Mamba Mentality” in his own career.

“As the years went by, I watched you do things that seemed humanly unimaginable,” writes Timberlake.

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The Memphis-born musician says he admired Bryant not as “one of the greatest athletes ever” but as a person and father. Timberlake says their last conversation was about being fathers.

“That was, beyond all the things that we could do in this world, our true legacy,” writes Timberlake. “Who our children are and what beautiful people they will become.”

He said his heart is broken and his family is thinking and praying about the Bryant family and others who died in the crash.

“Your legacy is with us," writes Timberlake. "It’s our responsibility to pass it down now. I hope you I can continue to make you proud, Vino. Champ, MVP, Legend, Hero, Inspiration, Father, Friend. I’m gonna miss you, brother. Mamba forever.”

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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 you I can continue to make you proud, Vino. Champ, MVP, Legend, Hero, Inspiration, Father, Friend. I’m gonna miss you, brother. Mamba forever.

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Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven other people died in the crash. The other victims include Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife, Keri, and daughter Alyssa; Christina Mauser, a basketball coach at a private elementary school; Sarah Chester and her daughter, Payton; and the pilot whose name authorities have yet to release.

From the WMC Archives: Kobe Bryant’s last game in Memphis

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