Los Angeles Lakers vice president of basketball operations Rob Pelinka was one of the hardest hit by the tragic loss of Kobe and Gianna Bryant — along with seven others — in January. As Kobe’s former agent and best friend, as well as Gianna’s godfather, Pelinka was essentially family.
Since winning the championship earlier this month, Pelinka has credited Bryant for giving him the strength to lead the Lakers.
He also said that Bryant perfectly predicted how long it would take for the Lakers to regain their championship form.
As for Gianna, who was very clearly a young Black Mamba in the making, Pelinka recalled a time where she was precise in her thoughts on the 2019-20 Lakers and their championship aspirations, via “The Woj Pod” with Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
“Kobe and I and Gianna ended up in the L.A. Kings’ locker room because, of course, the Lakers’ were in ours. And we were just sitting around, I think, you know, eating some popcorn. … And I remember Gigi looked at me and she said, she calls me ‘Uncle P’ because of my last name. She said, ‘Uncle P, I’m watching this game and I’m looking around. You guys are going to win the title this year.’
“And I said, ‘Well, Gigi, why do you think that? She goes, ‘Your defensive size and length and athleticism in the playoffs. It’s tough to make threes, and the rim gets smaller, and guys feel the pressure, and just your size and ability to cover space and take away the rim.’
“She goes, ‘Teams aren’t going to be able to score and you guys are going to win the championship.’ And that’s kind of exactly what happened. I mean, if you think about Game 6, Miami just couldn’t score in the first half and our defense is what carried us.”
Gigi, like her father, was a wise basketball mind. She was exactly right about the Lakers’ size and length simply overwhelming teams defensively. L.A. was one of the best defensive teams in the league all season, and they relied on it when it mattered most in the postseason.
Kobe jersey on display at National Museum of African American History and Culture
Bryant’s impact on the sports world goes far beyond just the Lakers, as he was an icon for an entire generation of athletes, not just basketball players.
Because of this, the NMAAHC honored Bryant by displaying a game-worn jersey he donated in 2017.
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