Some time has passed, but the memory of the late Kobe Bryant is still fresh on the minds of those in the Los Angeles Lakers organization as they gear up for a championship run inside of the NBA bubble.
While boarding the plane to Orlando on Thursday for the NBA restart, Lakers star Anthony Davis sported a shirt of Bryant and his daughter Gianna. It was a touching tribute and reminder that Bryant will be a sixth man on the court for the Lakers as they pursue the franchise’s 17th NBA title.
Bryant passed away on Jan. 26 of this year in a tragic helicopter accident, stunning not only the Lakers organization and the NBA, but the world. It was just part of what has become an unprecedented year that no one could have expected due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
After Bryant’s passing, Davis posting a touching message on his social media, talking about what the Lakers legend meant to him.
“Man this is a tough one for me!” Davis wrote. “You were the first guy to put me under your wing and show me the ins and outs of the league. Had so many great convos about so many things and I will cherish those moments forever. Love you forever, Bean!”
Davis also got a tattoo in memory of Bryant that represented his “Black Mamba” nickname.
Season Has Been ‘Roller Coaster Ride’ for Lakers
Lakers veteran Danny Green admitted that it’s been a heck of a year for the team, which is the favorite to take home the title from Orlando.
“It’s kind of been like a roller coaster in a cave that you don’t know where it’s going to end,” he said. “Or how it’s going to end. Or where you’re going to.”
The season restart in Orlando will not be easy, with players being separated from their loved ones. There will also be strict limits in place inside of the bubble. However, Green believes that the Lakers squad is well equipped to deal with the situation.
“Our team has an advantage because we have older guys,” he said. “Guys that like to be themselves, stay at home, they have families. [Guys] that have done the partying. We don’t need to be out in the streets or get antsy. A lot of guys have been through that lifestyle. So we’re easily, I think, ahead of the pack when it comes to guys that can sit still and stay at home and not have to worry about being on the scene or doing a bunch of stuff outside the house.”
J.R. Smith: Honored to Wear Lakers Colors Because of Kobe
J.R. Smith wasn’t with the Lakers at the time of Bryant’s passing, but the veteran guard — like many other NBAers — was still affected by Kobe’s death. Smith shared that he takes enormous pride in wearing the colors Bryant once did.
“It’s an honor to play in his memory for as long as i wear the colors,” Smith wrote on social media.
Smith is taking the place of Avery Bradley on the roster, who opted not to play in the restart. Smith is shooting 37.3 percent from 3-point range in his career and averages 12.5 points per game.