The memory of the late Kobe Bryant has been extensively commemorated in the Orlando bubble both by the Los Angeles Lakers and opposing teams and players. That was particularly true Sunday, when the legendary Laker would have turned 42.
With the beginning of “Mamba Week,” many of Bryant’s former teammates, friends, and rivals have opened up on their relationship with the late five-time NBA champion who died in a helicopter crash alongside his daughter Gigi and seven other passengers in January.
Among those telling their Kobe memories is JR Smith who recalled how excited he was ahead of his first-ever game against Bryant and his Lakers, even though it did not end up well for him as a young player.
“Byron Scott was telling me, ‘Hey rook, when you get in the game, Kobe is going to take two dribbles baseline and pump fake. Just stay down’,” Smith recalled.
“I don’t think I took it as a scout. He’s got so many moves, I didn’t think he was just going to do that. Sure enough, first play of the game, two dribbles baseline, pump fake, I jump, they call a foul and he makes the shot. Within seconds I get taken out.”
Smith also remembered having intimate conversations with Bryant and the guidance the 18-time All-Star offered him both as a player and person. And he adds it is difficult to avoid an emotional whirlwind whenever the memory of the Lakers legend comes to mind.
“I woke up [Sunday] morning and saw pictures of him, I’m still in shock. He’s one of those people you thought would be here forever,” Smith said.
Despite joining L.A. only last month, Smith quickly grasped how important Bryant was, and still is, for the franchise. Having shared the same agency with Bryant at one point his rookie season, Smith created a strong bond with him the years that was only strengthened by their joint workouts in Santa Monica.
“Especially as a 2-guard, if you can model your career after anybody at that wing position, it would be a Kobe person,” Smith said. “The career, the accolades, the championships, and everything else. I look up to him just as much as I look up to Jordan.
“His mindset, his work ethic, the way he saw the game, the way he prepared for his workout was different and so special.”
Vanessa Bryant Posts Heartfelt Birthday Message To Kobe
As tributes are pouring in during “Mamba Week,” Vanessa Bryant shared an emotional Instagram note to her late husband on the day of his birthday.
The Lakers will wear the “Black Mamba” jersey during Game 4 against the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday to commemorate the memory of the franchise’s legend.
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