The Los Angeles Lakers and collective sports world recently navigated a somber stretch that marked one year since the tragic death of Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven additional passengers on a helicopter.
The spirit of the late Lakers legend has accompanied the team and city ever since the horrific incident. It provided the Lakers with extra motivation in the Orlando bubble, where they won the franchise’s 17th NBA title last season.
Kyle Kuzma recently opened up on how difficult it still has been to come to terms with Bryant’s passing. The anniversary only amplified those feelings to the extent Lakers head coach Frank Vogel gave his team a day off to grieve and honor the memory of their mentor and friend on Jan. 26.
But the difficult time also reminded the NBA community just how remarkable a player Bryant was. Former Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson told Broderick Turner of the L.A. Times he still could not comprehend how in his career finale, the then-37-year-old forward managed to put up a 60-point game :
“That last game, I think about that a lot, ’cause I always shake my head. ‘How can this dude get 60 going out.’ That’s crazy,” Johnson said. “Going out! ‘Last game. I’m going to get 60!’ I’m just like, ‘Man!’”
LeBron James recently spoke about coping with the devastating loss, emphasizing the importance of empathy toward those who struggle during the grieving process.
The 36-year-old added that apart from Bryant-inspired apparel he and his teammates wear to celebrate the late five-time NBA champion’s career, the Nos. 8 and 24 jerseys hanging from the Staples Center rafters always remind the Lakers they carry his legacy on.
“There’s a lot of things that die in this world, but legends never die,” James said. “And he’s exactly that.”
Lakers intentionally did not organize formal anniversary tribute to Bryant
Jan. 26 was certainly on the minds of everyone associated with the Lakers organization. However, the franchise decided not to prepare any formal tribute to its former superstar to avoid drawing more attention to the tragedy.
L.A. celebrated Bryant’s legacy last August around the time of his would-be birthday (Aug. 23) and what became widely known as Kobe Bryant Day (Aug. 24).
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