LeBron James was inevitably going to be viewed as the heir to the legendary Kobe Bryant upon his decision to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2018. He never ran away from the responsibility that the mantle bore, promising he would make the franchise successful again.
That link between James and Bryant’s heritage appeared to be even stronger after the latter’s sudden death in January earlier this year. Soon after the tragic news of Bryant’s helicopter crash was confirmed, James promised to continue his legacy in a Twitter post.
Then during one of the countless days in the Orlando bubble, the now four-time NBA champion also pointed out how his determination and obsession with success are reminiscent of Bryant’s drive and Mamba Mentality.
The Lakers also did not hide that they tried to tap into and embody the franchise legend’s competitiveness to fuel their desire to win this season. And after reaching the NBA Finals with L.A., James said that it is impossible not to think of the legendary Laker when putting the purple and gold jersey on.
Nothing would have served as a tribute to Bryant, the ultimate warrior, more than bringing the Larry O’Brien trophy back to Staples Center. James seems to have understood that and after leading the Los Angeles franchise to its 17th NBA title, he took to Instagram to dedicate the championship to his late “brother.”
James posted a poignant black and white picture of himself sitting in front of a basketball and next to Bryant’s special “Black Mamba” jersey. Two more images were attached to the post: a composition of photos showing their shared moments alongside James’ promise of continuing Bryant’s legacy.
And a picture of the Larry O’Brien trophy the Lakers hoisted after beating the Miami Heat in Game 6 of the NBA Finals.
The post was captioned: “Hope I’m made you proud my brother!! Love and miss you Champ!!”
Anthony Davis struck a similar note when honoring Bryant’s memory after winning the title with L.A. He said he was certain the Lakers made Bryant proud.
Emotional Pelinka reflects on words of reassurance from Bryant
Lakers vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka got emotional when speaking of his relationship with Bryant following title celebrations in the Orlando bubble.
Pelinka said his friendship with the Lakers legend was a transformative experience and added Bryant told him he was was confident his former agent would soon lead L.A. to great things. “When I took the job, I remember he said, ‘Hey, I know what you did for me for 20 years.’” Pelinka recalled.
“He said, ‘I’ll give you two, three years, you’ll fix this. You’ll get the Lakers back on top.’”
Pelinka then looked skyward before adding, “I guess you were right, man. You gave me the energy to do it.”
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