Justin Timberlake Shares Emotional Tribute to Kobe Bryant as He Recounts Their Last Conversation

"Your confidence in me was huge — it really affected me because I admired you so much," Justin Timberlake wrote on Instagram

The tributes and eulogies in honor of Kobe Bryant continue to trickle in as the world mourns the loss of the NBA legend.

Posting a slideshow of photos with Bryant, Justin Timberlake wrote a touching tribute to his longtime friend, who died in a helicopter crash Sunday alongside daughter Gianna, 13, and seven others.

“We met when we were both teenagers and bonded over our drive and process,” Timberlake, 38, wrote on Instagram Monday. ”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,” the musician continued. “But, every time we would speak, something started to change… your patience and ease grew. And it inspired me to continue to grow for myself.”

<a href="https://people.com/tag/justin-timberlake/" data-inlink="true">Justin Timberlake</a> and Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bryant and Justin Timberlake. Harry How/Getty

RELATED ARTICLE: Will and Jada Pinkett Smith Mourn Kobe Bryant and His Daughter Gianna: ‘Life Is So Fragile’

Timberlake shared that after years of knowing each other, the NBA legend nicknamed himself “Vino” jokingly representing how he “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,” the “Mirrors” singer wrote. “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.”

Timberlake — who shares son Silas Randall, 4½, with Jessica Biel — shared that the last time the two chatted, they had a candid conversation about fatherhood.

“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,” he wrote. (Bryant was a father to 17-year-old Natalia, 3-year-old Bianka, 7-month-old Capri Kobe and Gianna, who died in the crash. He is also survived by his wife Vanessa Bryant.)

<a href="https://people.com/tag/justin-timberlake/" data-inlink="true">Justin Timberlake</a> and Kobe Bryant
Kevin Mazur/Fox/Getty

RELATED ARTICLE: Kanye West Eulogizes Kobe Bryant in Late Night Sunday Service Memorial: ‘I Just Broke Down’

“I guess right now, without being able to find all the words, THAT father connection is what is most devastating for me,” he continued. “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.”

The former NSYNC member ended the post by speaking about Bryant’s legacy — and the Mamba spirit the Los Angeles Lakers player coined.

“You have connected so many of us,” he wrote. “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,” he ended the note. “Mamba forever.”

RELATED VIDEO: Rick Ross Pays Tribute to ‘True Champion’ Kobe Bryant

Timberlake even got to present Bryant, Peyton Manning and Abby Wambach the Icon Award during the 2016 ESPYs.

“Their primes were as great, as legendary as any in history,” Timberlake said before presenting the award, according to Variety. “Super Bowl titles, Olympic gold medals, NBA championships, obliterated records. These are the achievements that are supposed to make you immortal.”

Bryant, 41, gave an inspiring speech after receiving the award along with two of America’s finest athletes.

“We’re not on this stage just because of talent and ability, but because of 4 a.m., two-a-days and not letting anything stand in our way,” Bryant went on. “We were never satisfied, finished — we’ll never be retired.”

“I believe there’s time for resting at the end, but for me, that time is not now,” he concluded.

<a href="https://people.com/tag/justin-timberlake/" data-inlink="true">Justin Timberlake</a> and Kobe Bryant
Justin Timberlake and Kobe Bryant. Kevin Winter/Getty

On Sunday, authorities confirmed in a press conference that nine victims were killed in the crash, including Bryant and Gianna, nicknamed “Gigi.”

Sarah Chester and her daughter, eighth-grader Payton, the head baseball coach at Orange Coast College John Altobelli, his wife Keri and daughter Alyssa, girls basketball coach Christina Mauser and pilot Ara Zobayan were also on the aircraft during the deadly helicopter crash.

Related Articles