It has been well over a year since Frank Vogel landed one of the best—and at the same time, most difficult—jobs in the NBA, head coach of the Lakers. But he has gotten L.A. through a difficult season and on the brink of a championship, heading into Game 5 against the Miami Heat with a 3-1 series lead.
Vogel was asked on Friday what his most memorable moment has been during the Lakers’ current run. He did not hesitate—the Anthony Davis game-winner in Game 2 of the conference finals against Denver.
“Probably the AD shot,” Vogel said. “I think that was obviously an epic moment in NBA history, not just our team’s journey this year. But to see such a dynamic player have such a big moment in a big game like that, that’s the first thing that comes to my mind.”
Frank Vogel said “the great ones” go to another level on big stages and that’s what Anthony Davis has done. pic.twitter.com/ZDQNLREDJe
— Dan Woike (@DanWoikeSports) October 9, 2020
In that game, the Nuggets had stormed back from a 16-point deficit and took a 2-point lead with 2.1 seconds to go. Davis, though, took an inbound from Rajon Rondo and nailed an open 3-point look on the left wing. The shot gave the Lakers a 2-0 series lead, and they held on to win in five games.
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It also came with the Lakers wearing their “Black Mamba” jerseys, designed by late Lakers icon Kobe Bryant, who was killed in a tragic helicopter crash in January. After he hoisted the shot, Davis shouted, “Kobe!”
“We’ve always felt like Kobe was with us,” Vogel said. “Never more than at that moment.”
Lakers Aiming for 5-0 in Black Mamba Jerseys
The Lakers are wearing their Black Mamba uniforms again for Game 5, and already in the postseason, the team has gone 4-0 when putting them on. According to CBS Sports, they have outscored opponents by 10 points per game when wearing the jerseys and have shot 52% from the field in those games.
The Lakers have made the switch to wear their Black Mamba uniforms for Game 5 of the #NBAFinals
LA is 4-0 this season when wearing these jerseys. pic.twitter.com/SMgrXolJNk
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) October 7, 2020
On Thursday, Davis spoke about why the team has been so good in black and what it would mean to the team to close out the Finals in the Mamba uniforms:
We just think that for all the things that happened this season, with our team specifically and our organization, that to be able to close it out in the Black Mamba uniforms will just make it all worth it. Obviously his legacy in the NBA and then just with the organization, period, is something special, and for us to, like I said, close it out in his honor is something that we look forward to, something that — an insane amount of pressure for sure, but we don’t want to lose, we don’t want to let him down.
Every time we lose in the jerseys, we feel like we’ve let him down, and we don’t want to do that. We want to remain undefeated. But if we come in and do the things that we’re supposed to do on both ends of the floor, then we can remain undefeated and close this thing out and make this moment even more special.
Lakers’ Frank Vogel: ‘When You Think About Kobe Bryant, You Think About Championships’
Vogel, too, had Bryant’s legacy on his mind heading into Game 5. Bryant, of course, helped lead the Lakers to five NBA championships, a three-peat from 2000-2002 and back-to-back championships in 2009 and 10. He took the Lakers to two other Finals, in 2004 and 2008.
That is where this team can most successfully carry on Bryant’s legacy. He detailed that in comments to the media last week.
“Well, that’s what you think about when you think about Kobe Bryant,” Vogel said. “Obviously, he makes big shots throughout every regular season and whatnot, but when you think about Kobe Bryant, you think about championships and you think about the NBA Finals and all the big moments that he had in the Finals. While we wanted to embody what he stood for and represent his memory all throughout the year, we want to do that more so now than ever.”