Although the Los Angeles Lakers game was postponed against the Los Angeles Clippers, the team gathered their players and coaching staff at the UCLA Health Training Center for the first time since Kobe Bryant‘s death.
As the NBA has honored Bryant by committing 24 and/or eight second shot clock violations and players have started to change their numbers, the Lakers are still processing this tragedy that claimed the lives of nine people.
Led by general manager Rob Pelinka and head coach Frank Vogel, the Lakers shared their favorite memories and LeBron James was the first to speak.
James reportedly spoke about their battles and becoming teammates in the 2008 and 2012 Summer Olympics, according to Bill Oram of The Athletic:
For more than 10 minutes, Lakers players, staff members and executives, including owner Jeanie Buss, sat rapt as James shared stories from his battles with Bryant as opponents and their time as teammates in a pair of Olympics. The group was gathered in an event suite overlooking the team’s practice court, directly across the gym from where the Lakers championship trophies could be seen in Buss’ office window.
While it will be difficult to move forward, James was focused on winning the 2020 NBA Finals, which would be their first since Bryant’s 2009-10 team:
When James redirected his focus to what lies ahead for the grieving franchise, James said he could handle the burden of playing through grief in pursuit of the Lakers’ 17th championship.
“God gave me wide shoulders for a reason,” James said, according to multiple people who were present.
Amid the sadness, there is a sense of responsibility to continue the ‘Mamba Mentality.’ While Bryant demonstrated it on the basketball court for 20 seasons, fans have applied parts — if not all — of it to their own lives.
With the Lakers preparing for the Portland Trail Blazers, the hope is they will use this to come together and win it all for Bryant. And as the team’s current leader, James is determined to honor Bryant the best way he can now.