The Los Angeles Lakers have endured so much in one calendar year, but the storied franchise overcame all those things and is now playing for its 17th NBA championship.
LeBron James and Anthony Davis have been better than advertised, while Frank Vogel is proving to be a championship-caliber head coach with how well his team has performed so far in the postseason.
The organization seems to have shed its dysfunctional tag with everyone now working together in lock-step, a much-needed breath of fresh air for Jeanie Buss. The organization was shell-shocked when news broke of Kobe Bryant’s death, but the players responded by evoking his memory and spirit during their playoff run.
In an interview with Sam Amick of The Athletic, Buss emphasized that the players and franchise have naturally used Bryant’s passing as inspiration:
“This wasn’t created. This wasn’t something like, ‘Oh, the front office is now going to dedicate the season (to Bryant).’ This is completely organic. This is coming from the heart. You can’t write this, because this is who these players are.
“I know what my relationship was with Kobe, and how generous he was with his advice and his support of me personally. I didn’t realize how much he gave to so many other people — of his time, of his wisdom. When you have the winner of the U.S. Open (Naomi Osaka) talking about her conversations with Kobe and how he inspired her, and people in other sports, and other countries. This is who Kobe was, and a reflection of how many lives he’s touched and will continue to touch.
“Grieving this loss is felt by everybody. Like, we all lost somebody who was a giving person and who stood for what somebody can accomplish with a mindset and a person that will be willing to do the work and work harder than everybody else and continue to push and challenge themselves. Those lessons that he taught us, and what he stood for, won’t disappear in time. He will forever be part of this franchise.”
Shortly after advancing to the Finals, James detailed how he connected to Bryant, another example of how the team constantly thinks about his influence and legacy. Bryant’s impact on the organization will be felt forever and it is a powerful source of motivation for what has been a trying year for everyone.
Dwight Howard: What it would mean to win title in same year the world lost Kobe
Dwight Howard’s redemption with the Lakers is one of the best storylines heading into the 2020 NBA Finals. Howard’s first stint with L.A. resulted in a disappointing first-round exit and tarnished his reputation with the fanbase.
Howard and Bryant were unable to coexist during their time together, but the big man opened up about what it would mean to win a championship the same year the Laker icon passed away. “Oh, man, I think it’ll be one of the best feelings in the world,” expressed Howard.
“I sit at home, sit in the room, and I walk around the bubble and I just think about how that feeling would be just to hold up that trophy. It brings me to tears every time I think about it. Every day since we been in the bubble it’s been like, man, this is a great opportunity. Take full advantage of it and stay in the moment.
“You know, even after we won the Western Conference Finals, I wanted to be like, ‘All right, this is not the goal just to win with the Western Conference Finals. The goal is the win the championship.’
“Just felt so good and filled with emotions that night just knowing that we had got all the way back to the Finals and how hard it is and how hard you have to really work, how mentally strong you have to be in this league to get to the Finals.
“It’s one of the toughest things you can accomplish as an athlete is winning a championship. I’m just very grateful and thankful that I have this opportunity to play on this team and that we have an opportunity to win a championship.”
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