VIDEO: D’Angelo Russell Hits Buzzer-Beater to Beat Wolves, Honors Grandmother Who Passed on Sunday

The Los Angeles Lakers and their fans have been enamored with the NBA draft lottery and the odds of keeping their first-round pick in 2017 and 2019 all year. As the season comes to an end, that has become an even larger topic of conversation both locally and nationally, as they have fallen to having only the third best odds at keeping a top-three pick. If the standings remain intact until the end of the year and just one team jumps into the top three, the Lakers would be giving their 2017 pick to the Philadelphia 76ers and their 2019 pick to the Orlando Magic.

Yet as important as that angle is to the team and its future, there are times when more important matters come to the forefront. Sunday night was one of those times.

Tied in the win column with the Phoenix Suns, a loss would mean the world to the Lakers. That’s why, as D’Angelo Russell sneaked in a game-winner at the buzzer to beat the Minnesota Timberwolves, feelings were mixed about the narrow win. The adrenaline rush of the Lakers’ brightest young star making a clutch play was countered by the underlying fear of lowered odds of keeping a crucial lottery pick.

But after D’Angelo was surrounded by his teammates, almost choking him as they showed their delight in the point guard’s prowess in the final seconds, we learned of the circumstances behind Russell’s play. He told sideline reporter Mike Trudell on Spectrum Sportsnet that his grandmother had passed away that morning, and that the shot was a symbol of her watching over him.

After the game-winner, Russell went into the stands to hug his family in attendance in what was clearly an emotional time for the 21-year-old.

Clearly, it’s an emotional time for D’Angelo and his entire family. There is no way we can fully understand what he’s going through. But seeing Russell get on the court for his teammates after an important person in his life passed is a sign of the maturity that many have accused of him lacking. But more importantly, it was a way for him to deal with the sudden event:

Dealing with the loss of a loved one is the toughest thing anyone can go through. I personally still think about my own grandmother who passed 16 years ago, when I was six years old. I think about my other grandmother living halfway across the world and how I would react if she was suddenly taken away without me ever seeing her again.

So tonight, let’s not talk about the lottery or draft picks. Let’s not talk about the Lakers’ future or the potential of these young players.

Instead, let’s celebrate D’Angelo Russell and the life of his grandmother, who was surely watching and willing that ball to get the roll and drop. Let’s cherish an iconic moment in D’Angelo’s career.

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