Denver Broncos safety P.J. Locke loved Kobe Bryant SO MUCH ... he got a tattoo of the Lakers legend on his calf -- and it's AWESOME!!

TMZ Sports has learned ... Locke idolized the Black Mamba growing up, and when the former NBA superstar died in 2020, he felt it was only right to honor him with a new tat.

So, we're told Locke hit up Joshua Butierres at Filthy Family Tattoo in Denver last month to get the Mamba ink ... and after 9 hours in the shop, the masterpiece came out great!