Justin Timberlake's "heart is broken" following the death of his friend Kobe Bryant.
The 'Say Something' singer formed a bond with the NBA star over the years, and has opened up on their friendship in an Instagram tribute after Kobe and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna were among the nine people killed when his private helicopter crashed in Calabasas on Sunday (26.01.20).
Justin began the lengthy post: "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, something started to change ... your patience and ease grew. And it inspired me to continue to grow for myself."
The 38-year-old star went on to recall how he grew up with Kobe - who was 41 when he died - and said the sporting legend was an "inspiration" to him.
He continued: "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."
Justin's last conversation with Kobe involved gushing over their respective families, and the 'Trolls' actor - who has four-year-old son Silas with his wife Jessica Biel - sent his love to Kobe's wife Vanessa and their other three daughters, 17-year-old Natalia, three-year-old Bianka, and seven-month-old Capri.
He wrote: "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."