1. Kobe Bryant Speaking To The Staples Center Crowd After The Passing Of Dr. Jerry Buss
Significance: Dr. Jerry Buss wasn’t just an owner of the Los Angeles Lakers, he was an icon and a part of the city. He didn’t just turn the Lakers into one of the most successful franchises in all of sports, he turned the Lakers into a sub-culture, and any discussion about the corporeality of Los Angeles now has to include the Lakers — and that’s a huge part of the legacy that Buss left behind.
During the All-Star break, Kobe Bryant said, “He’s meant everything to me in terms of my career. He took a risk on a 17-year-old kid and then believing in me throughout my entire career. And for the game itself, he, you know, developed a brand of basketball — Showtime — that carried the league. When you think about the rivalry that took place between the Lakers and the Celtics and what that did for the global outreach of the game, it reached me out in Italy and I was only six-years-old.” Those sentiments remain true for many a Laker who have passed through the doors of the Great Western Forum or the Staples Center.
The Lakers first game following the death of Dr. Buss was an emotional one. Kobe addressed the media, near tears, and gave an emotional pre-game speech about the man who brought him to Los Angeles. “It’s a huge honor to play for this organization,” Bryant began. “Everything that he’s built. You look around and you look at all the trophies, you look at all the parades, all the support that we have and this organization means, and that all came from one man, his vision. His vision transcended the game. It became pop culture. The impact is global.”
Dr. Buss is truly missed.
2. Lakers Trainer Gary Vitti And Center Robert Sacre Walk Kobe Bryant To The Locker Room After Bryant Tore His Achilles And Knocked Down Two Free Throws
Significance: There’s so much dejection in this photo. Although Bryant is walking along side Robert Sacre and Gary Vitti, there’s a desolate feel in this photo as Kobe is coming to the realization that he’s going to be isolated away from the game that has given him his identity his whole life. A ruptured Achilles would leave any man dubious about walking on that leg, but for a man who’s become a house-hold name across the world — the feelings going through his mind at the moment of this photo have to be vacillating at a thousand RPM.
While Kobe was able to come back in 2013 and play (see below), there’s a feeling that we might not ever see Bryant back to his former self — especially considering that he’s already fractured his fibula since his return. We can only hope for a better 2014 for Bryant, but the future seems as bleak as this photograph.
3. The Last Shot Of Dwight Howard In A Lakers Uniform Is Of Him Walking Out Of Staples Center After Being Ejected From Game 4 Of The Lakers 1st Round Playoff Series
Significance: The Lakers had essentially mortgaged their future by taking a chance on Dwight Howard without forcing him to sign an extension heading into the summer of 2013. The front office brought in Steve Nash for what they assumed would be a perfect pairing in pick-and-roll sets, but things never materialized as Nash went down with an injury on the second game of the season and Howard never found the kind of chemistry with Bryant and Pau Gasol as many expected heading into the year. Instead, the last shot we have of Howard in a Lakers uniform is of him walking out of Staples Center after receiving his second technical foul in Game 4 of the Lakers 1st round playoff loss to the San Antonio Spurs. Howard would mull his decisions and ultimately bolt Los Angeles for Houston. The Lakers were forced to scramble and put together a roster that ended the year at 13-19 with six consecutive losses heading into 2014.
4. Athletic Trainer Gary Vitti Walks Steve Nash Out Of The Arena
Significance: The significance of this photograph is more about what it represents. If there was any overarching theme for the 2013 that the Lakers had, it was a lack of health. The Lakers entered the year not fully healthy, and ended the year just the same. There wasn’t one consistent contributor for the Lakers who didn’t find themselves on the injured list at some period of time. The dominos started to fall with Nash’s injury at the beginning of the 2012 season, but the Lakers would take that negative energy with them into 2013, and it would frustratingly linger for the full year.
5. Kobe Bryant Running Onto The Court For The First Time Sine Rupturing His Achilles
Significance: For a brief moment of 2013, there was a glimmer of hope. The Lakers put together a roster many assumed would not compete with the depth of the Western Conference. However, they would beat the Clippers on Opening Night and record wins over the Rockets and Warriors. With Bryant’s return imminent, the team would play some inspired basketball and head into Bryant’s debut with a 10-9 record. Many knew there would be growing pains with Bryant re-entered the lineup, but even with the team losing their first three games of his return, there was some room for optimism as the role players were playing well. Instead, however, the injury bug would real its ugly head and remove all three point guards from the Lakers lineup and ultimately send Bryant back to the injured reserve list for at least another six weeks.
2013 wasn’t kind to the Lakers, but if there’s any solace we can take from all of this is that it’s hard to imagine 2014 being any worse. Here’s to health and a restoration of the good name of the Lakers in the new year.
Jordan Farmar On Hamstring Tightness, Feels Like It Did Before He Tore It