When the Los Angeles Lakers played Game 4 against the Portland Trail Blazers, it not only represented an opportunity to take firm hold of the first-round series, but it was a poignant day for the organization as it celebrated the life of the late Kobe Bryant.
Aug. 24 — a date representing Bryant’s two fabled jersey numbers — has been commemorated in the Lakers legend’s memory. It resonated even more this year in the wake of his tragic death in January.
Tributes started pouring in the day before — on Sunday, Aug 23. — when Bryant would have celebrated his 42nd birthday. Many players around the league shared their stories featuring the five-time NBA champion and emphasized the influence he had on their careers.
Ariza told ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan how the 18-time All-Star impressed him with his unique attention to detail:
“Kobe was the one who totally changed my perspective of the game,” Ariza said. “Everything small or big, it all mattered the same to him. His attention to detail was what separated him. You can be a great athlete, a great scorer, but what if you are playing hurt and can’t get to the spot you normally like to operate from? Kobe’s the one that showed me how to pay attention to angles, to footwork, to the nuances that can take you a long way in situations like that. He broke down the game differently than anyone I’ve ever seen.”
Ariza spent two seasons with the Lakers, winning the 2009 NBA title alongside Bryant. He of course now plays for Portland but could not support his team in the bubble after opting out of the NBA restart for family reasons.
Ariza watched Game 4 at home, rooting for the Blazers but paying his tribute to Bryant by wearing his No. 8 Lakers jersey.
Chris Paul changed pregame routine to honor Bryant
Oklahoma City Thunder point guard and Bryant’s Olympic teammate in 2008 and 2012 Chris Paul revealed his own way to honor the legendary Laker’s life and legacy, a gesture that might have gone unnoticed among NBA fans.
Paul’s pregame routine involved hitting the basket stanchion three times prior to the jump ball, but he changed it to honor Bryant’s fabled competitiveness otherwise known as the Mamba Mentality.
“I do eight [hits] now and look up and say, ‘Let’s go, Bean.’ Because I know what type of competitor he was,” Paul revealed during the first round.
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