The Kobe Bryant-led Core Four propelled the Los Angeles Lakers to back-to-back championships in the late 2010s. However, that success perhaps wouldn’t have been possible without L.A.’s hard-working role players such as Jordan Farmar and Sasha Vujacic.
Vujacic spent six full seasons with the Lakers after they selected him with the No. 27 pick in the 2004 NBA Draft. But ultimately, the Slovenian shooting guard will likely always be remembered for the two late free throws he made in Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals.
Vujacic’s freebies gave L.A. a four-point lead over the Boston Celtics with 11.7 seconds to go, effectively sealing the franchise’s 16th title — with the Purple and Gold officially avenging the Finals loss against C’s from 2008. And the 38-year-old told ClutchPoints’ Tomer Azarly he still gets love from the Lakers faithful for making those two title-winning free throws 12 years ago:
“It’s been amazing. When you get drafted by the Lakers in the first round, and I was one of those people that my dream was not only to go to the NBA, but my dream was to go to L.A. and win with the Lakers — and obviously to play with one of the best players that’s ever played the game. And then thank God I didn’t miss those free throws. A lot of times, people forget that I was there for seven years and the only thing they remember are the free throws and thank God because that was payback. To answer your question, that’s probably one of the most amazing feelings that Lakers fans got and I got as well and our team. By winning and getting our rematch done properly in 2010.”
Vujacic might have not been one of the Lakers stars, but he still earned Kobe Bryant’s respect during his seven-year run with the team — became close friends with the legendary guard. The Slovenian said Bryant was like a brother to him, adding the Purple and Gold icon’s death truly shook him:
“You know, Kobe was my big brother. I still can’t find the words to talk about it because it’s just something that I’m still kind of fighting. How it happened, what happened, him, Gigi, and it’s just tough so he was besides being a big brother for me, he was an incredible teammate and someone that was one of a kind. Safely I can tell you, for example, I watched The Last Dance during the pandemic and what I’ve seen in The Last Dance and being with Kobe for so many years, I just got a confirmation that right there, you’ve got Kobe and MJ. I was honored and lucky and you know just happy to be able to learn and compete against him every day, and I think he accepted me the first day when he saw that I’m also a little bit obsessed with winning and hard work and that’s how the mutual respect and brotherhood kind of started.”
Asked how he got on Bryant’s good side, Vujacic said he simply put in the hard work and focused solely on winning the NBA championship with the Lakers:
“I didn’t figure out the way. I didn’t care about that. When I showed up at the gym at 4 o’clock, 5 o’clock in the morning and there’s Kobe, so when you see there’s the franchise player and a young kid that came from Europe that I have to prove myself and he recognized why I was in L.A. I didn’t care about Hollywood, I didn’t care about celebrity statuses and stuff like that. All I cared about was winning and when you put the hard work in, when you combine talent and opportunity, the real ones recognize real and that was with Kobe.”
Vujacic averaged 5.3 points and 1.3 assists in 581 NBA games. After the Lakers traded him to the New Jersey Nets in 2010, the guard moved between Europe and America until he retired from basketball nine years later.
Former Patriots star Julian Edelman recalls inspiring visit from Kobe Bryant
Former New England Patriots star Julian Edelman recently recalled how Bryant made a tremendous impression on the team in a preseason visit back in 2018. Edelman said he took notice of the Lakers icon’s unbelievable attention to detail and curiosity, making the already retired NBA great “one of the most interesting humans” to have ever come to talk with the Patriots.
“He wasn’t playing anymore, but you could just tell that guy was a fierce f—ing winner,” Edelman said.
“Just eye of the tiger. He’ll f—ing rip your heart out and would do it over and over and over and over again just to show you you’re not better than him.”
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