The Los Angeles Lakers were a few steps away from an NBA Finals berth in 2022-23 but fell short in the Western Conference Finals.
However, a sweep to the Denver Nuggets didn’t force the Lakers into a panic as they’ve got the infrastructure in place to make another run next season. Behind LeBron James and Anthony Davis, Los Angeles saw several of their role players step up in the bright lights including Rui Hachimura, who has earned himself a sizable raise in free agency by re-signing with the Lakers.
Hachimura had a productive postseason run and had some nights where he looked like the third-best player on the Lakers. Fans embraced the Japanese native for his play but he may have even earned more of their love after explaining the meaning behind his No. 28 jersey at his exit interview at the end of last season.
“Initially it was actually my birthday. My birthday is February 8, and my number’s… I’m usually number eight. ‘Hachi’ means eight in Japanese, so that’s why I wanted to wear No. 8 but that’s Kobe’s number and I knew it was gonna be hard. Then I’m deciding, yeah it’s my birthday but also it’s Kobe’s number and his daughter’s number so I’m like, ‘OK, that’s gonna be a pretty big, deep meaning.’ I just liked the number, so that’s why I picked it.”
Kobe Bryant spent half of his famed career donning No. 8 with the purple and gold while his daughter Gianna Bryant wore No. 2. Although it’s a happy coincidence that Hachimura’s birthday happened to have those two digits, it’s still a meaningful connection between him and the Lakers icon.
Like Bryant, Hachimura is a great scorer in the mid-range area and was often used as an option late in the shot clock during half court possessions. His size and physicality was particularly useful against smaller defenders, and that type of isolation scoring could help the Lakers long term.
The forward was a restricted free agent this summer but with the rights to match any offer sheet, the Lakers had no issues re-signing him and locking Hachimura down long-term.
Rui Hachimura calls time in Los Angeles one of best of his life
It must’ve felt like a whirlwind of a season for Hachimura, who went from the Washington Wizards to the Lakers where he was an important part of their run toward the postseason. Despite the rollercoaster of events, Hachimura called his time in L.A. one of the best of his life.
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