This has been the longest NBA season to date when looking at the calendar, as we actually recently passed the one-year anniversary of Lakers media day from September 2019. These 2019-20 Lakers are still chugging along after their season was disrupted in March due to the global pandemic of COVID-19. The pandemic is still around in America, but the NBA has found a way to get to the 2020 NBA Finals with the Lakers set to take on the Heat. It’s been a challenging year for LeBron James and the Lakers for many of the reasons listed already, with the death of Kobe Bryant in January compounding the challenges that already existed for this team. The Lakers organization has always been touted as a family organization, with his death and his daughter’s death severely impacting many people throughout the organization.
LeBron hasn’t been a Laker for two full seasons yet, but he has obviously had a strong relationship with Kobe Bryant due to their many battles throughout the years. LeBron took Kobe’s death very hard, a death that happened mere hours after LeBron had passed Kobe in all-time points scored.
After the Lakers beat the Denver Nuggets in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals, LeBron spoke about Kobe saying the following (reported by Ryan Ward of Clutch Points):
“I mean, every time you put on purple & gold, you think about his legacy. You think about him & about what he meant to this franchise for 20+ years, what he stood for both on the floor & off the floor. What he demanded out of his teammates and what he demanded out of himself. We have some similarities in that sense. Our games are different, but as far as our mindset and our drive to want to be the best and our drive to not lose — sometimes you’re going to lose games, but that drive to always want to be victorious, it stops you from sleeping and sometimes you put certain things — you sacrifice a lot of things. You sacrifice your family at times because you’re so driven to be so great that other things fall by the wayside at times. So I understand that. I’m one of the few that can understand the mindset that he played with and the journey from high school to the NBA. It’s just a thing that I carry with me, like I said, every time I decide at one point in that locker room before the game when I throw that jersey on.”
Although LeBron James has still played nearly double the amount of years as a Heat than he has as a Laker, you can tell that he has felt the never-ending legacies of many Lakers greats, but especially Kobe Bryant. Many said Kobe shared Michael Jordan’s “killer instinct” which LeBron talks about above. LeBron says that he has always related to Kobe because of his shared “killer instinct”, although their games couldn’t have been more different.
Kobe Bryant will undoubtedly be brought up many times by these Lakers, especially if the win, as his death hit this team very hard this year.