This season has been hard for the Lakers in more ways than one, with the passing of Kobe Bryant probably being the hardest obstacle the team has had to clear. Not in its pursuit of a championship, per say, but just in regards to the ability to keep suiting up for basketball every day when someone so impactful to the game had been lost. On top of that, some players on the Lakers have intersected with Kobe in their respective careers (LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Rajon Rondo, etc.) while some grew up idolizing the superstar (Quinn Cook, Anthony Davis, Talen Horton-Tucker). In addition, some in the Lakers organization known Kobe Bryant ever since he was a teenager coming into the NBA. Some in the organization have grown to be great friends with Kobe, most notably the godfather of Gianna Bryant — Rob Pelinka — as well as Lakers owner Jeanie Buss.
Jeanie Buss hasn’t spoken much in public since Kobe’s death in January but was nice enough to go on the “Tampering” podcast with Sam Amick on The Athletic’s podcast network. In the show, Jeanie was asked about the terrible loss, saying the following:
Tragedy on top of tragedy. Losing my mother, losing David Stern, and then, of course, our beloved Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna. Nobody could predict that, and it still hurts. It’s still fresh.
Buss has been through a lot in the past decade or so, losing her mom, dad, and Kobe Bryant all in that timespan. Our hearts go out to her, as that is a tough burder to bear at any time, let alone when you’re the owner of one of the most important American sports franchises with a global pandemic on top of it.
LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Frank Vogel have invoked Kobe Bryant’s name throughout the season since his death, as the team literally invokes his nickname when breaking a huddle.
Jeanie Buss was asked about these continued tributes, making sure to point out that this is not artificial.
This wasn’t created. This wasn’t something like, ‘Oh, the front office is now going to dedicate the season (to Bryant).’ This is completely organic. This is coming from the heart. You can’t write this, because this is who these players are. I know what my relationship was with Kobe, and how generous he was with his advice and his support of me personally. I didn’t realize how much he gave to so many other people — of his time, of his wisdom. When you have the winner of the U.S. Open (Naomi Osaka) talking about her conversations with Kobe and how he inspired her, and people in other sports, and other countries. This is who Kobe was, and a reflection of how many lives he’s touched and will continue to touch. Grieving this loss is felt by everybody. Like, we all lost somebody who was a giving person and who stood for what somebody can accomplish with a mindset and a person that will be willing to do the work and work harder than everybody else and continue to push and challenge themselves. Those lessons that he taught us, and what he stood for, won’t disappear in time. He will forever be part of this franchise.
As a part of the Lakers and the NBA’s continued tributes to Kobe, they brought back the “Mamba” jerseys that Kobe designed a few years ago. The Lakers have worn them three times so far in this postseason, and are 3-0 in those three games (including the very exciting game-winner from Anthony Davis in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals). They’ll be wearing those jerseys again in Game 2 of the NBA Finals, with Jeanie Buss being in attendance as a part of the newly allowed owners and executives that can watch the game while staying at an out-of-bubble hotel.