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Justin Timberlake's last conversation with Kobe Bryant was about fatherhood

Timberlake shared a heartbreaking open letter to the late basketball star, who he'd known for many years.
/ Source: TODAY

Justin Timberlake is thanking the late Kobe Bryant for inspiring him to be the best father he can be.

The 38-year-old singer took to Instagram on Monday to honor the Los Angeles Laker legend, who died Sunday alongside his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others, in a tragic helicopter accident.

"We met when we were both teenagers and bonded over our drive and process," the Grammy winner wrote next to a gallery of photos of the two men together.

The "Man of the Woods" singer, 38, went on to describe Bryant's influence on his life. "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," he gushed. "A mentality that I would take with me throughout my whole career and still use every day."

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Timberlake, right, shared several photos of himself with Bryant along with an emotional letter thanking the late NBA star for inspiring him to be the best father he can be.Kevin Mazur / Getty Images

Over the years, Timberlake watched Bryant do things on the basketball court that seemed "humanly unimaginable." But, off the court, "something started to change ... your patience and ease grew. And it inspired me to continue to grow for myself," he shared.

As the two men grew older, they married and welcomed children, often teasing each other with "'old man' jokes," recalled Timberlake, who shares son, Silas, 4, with wife Jessica Beil.

"We joked about 'The Vino Club.' You nicknamed yourself ‘Vino’ to represent how one could age gracefully as a fine wine does," he shared. "But, you never stopped aiming to inspire me."

The last time the longtime friends were together, they discussed fatherhood.

"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," Timberlake wrote.

"And, I guess right now, without being able to find all the words, THAT father connection is what is most devastating for me," he added, noting that Bryant, who was just 41 when he died, left behind his wife, Vanessa, 37, and their three other daughters, Natalia, 17, Bianka, 3, and 6-month-old Capri.

"I am sending my love to Vanessa and your family and to the families of everyone connected in the mourning of this terrible tragedy," added the singer. "My heart is broken and my family lifts you up in our thoughts and prayers," he shared.

Timberlake ended his emotional letter by telling Bryant, "I hope you I can continue to make you proud, Vino."