During his first Shawn "JAY-Z" Carter Lecture Series at Columbia University in New York City on Tuesday, the rapper revealed that he last spoke with Bryant at his New Year's party. Bryant attended the soiree -- which was was hosted by JAY-Z and his wife, Beyonce -- just a few weeks before he died in a helicopter crash alongside his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others.
"He was last in my house on New Year's and he was just in the greatest space that I've seen him in," JAY-Z recalled to the crowd. "One of the last things he said to me was, 'You gotta see Gianna play basketball.' And that was one of the most hurtful things because he was so proud."
"The look on his face was like…I looked at him and said, 'Oh, she's going to be the best female basketball player in the world,'" he continued. "He was just so proud of what he said."
JAY-Z said that Bryant's death has been incredibly "tough" for him and Beyonce, who developed a close bond with the legendary Los Angeles Lakers star and his wife, Vanessa, over the years.
"That's really a tough one and my wife and I took that, are taking that, really tough. That's all I'll say on that," he shared. "Just a great human being that was in a great space in his life."
Hear more from JAY'z conversation with Jelani Cobb, Columbia's Ira A. Lipman Professor of Journalism, below:
In addition to his wife, Bryant is survived by the other three children they shared: Natalia, 17, Bianka, 3, and Capri, 7 months.
Taking to Instagram on Wednesday, Vanessa shared a beautiful tribute to her husband and "best friend."
"#mybestfriend #theBestdaddy Miss you so much. #handsome #sweet #funny #silly #lovinghusband ❤️," she captioned the pic, which showed Bryant sporting a white T-shirt and smiling at the camera.
"Miss you saying, 'Bonjourno principessa/reina,'" she added.
She also has been sharing pics and videos from Gianna's jersey retirement ceremony this week, captioning one of them, "My Gianna. God I miss you. I’ve been so lucky to have woken up to see your gorgeous face and amazing smile for 13 years. Wish it would’ve been until my last breath. Mommy loves you to the moon and back. Infinity plus 1. #2 #Mambacita #GigiBryant ❤️."