While the Los Angeles Lakers ended the franchise’s championship drought last season, it came during an overwhelmingly difficult year for the world and organization.
While 2020 became synonymous with the coronavirus (COVID-19), an emotional rollercoaster for the Lakers began with Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven other passengers passing away in a helicopter accident.
Bryant’s memory has been a regular talking point over the past year, and in particular the past week as Tuesday represents the one-year anniversary of the tragedy. “We still think about it,” Anthony Davis said. “It was January 26 of last year when it happened.”
The Lakers to this day still break their huddles with “Mamba” and last season were open about wanting to win a championship in Bryant’s memory. “From that point on we were like, ‘We have a purpose,'” Davis added.
“Ever since the tragedy happened we had a mindset that this is bigger than ourselves. There were so many signs in the bubble that he was there with us. We had a different approach every time we had the jerseys on. I think it was Game 5 against Portland, the score was 24-8. We had games in the season where there were signs on the scoreboard that Kobe was with us. Me, subconsciously yelling ‘Kobe’ when I made the shot (against the Nuggets).
“There’s just a lot of things that happened that we didn’t expect to happen. It just happened and it showed us it was destined for us to win a championship for him. That was our approach last year and it’s the same approach this year.”
As Davis referenced, the Lakers brought their Black Mamba City Edition jersey back into circulation for the playoffs. They openly spoke about feeling an added sense of determination when wearing them, and their 4-1 record supported that.
Davis floored by Kobe shooting left-handed
While Davis could not recall his first memory of playing against Bryant, he reflected on a meeting they had in January 2015. Davis was in his third season with the New Orleans Pelicans, and it unfortunately was a game in which it later was learned Bryant tore his right rotator cuff.
He showed discomfort during the game but continued playing, regularly shooting left-handed as a means of compensating. “I was on the bench, timeout, and he comes back into the game. I’m like, ‘Man, he’s tough. He’s still going to continue to play,'” Davis recalled.
“He comes down the very next play, they throw the ball to him in the post and I think Dante Cunningham was guarding him. He takes two dribbles, does his shimmy and shoots the ball left-handed and it goes in. I just kind of stared at him down the court and looked at the bench.
“I was just amazed that a guy who is right-handed comes in and says, ‘OK, I’m just going to shoot and play left-handed.’ That’s one of my earliest memories in the league of Kobe.”
Have you subscribed to our YouTube channel? It’s the best way to watch player interviews, exclusive coverage from events, participate in live shows, and more!