LeBron James, 35, is continuing to honor former L.A. Lakers player Kobe Bryant, who died in Jan. after a tragic helicopter crash, by wearing his Black Mamba jerseys during the NBA Finals this week. After coming off the high of winning Game 2 of the finals against Miami Heat on Oct. 2, the skilled athlete opened up about the significance of his team switching their normal yellow and purple uniforms to the darker color and expressed his hopes for making Kobe’s family proud. “It’s always special to represent someone that meant so much, not only to the game but obviously to the Lakers organization for 20-plus years,” LeBron said in a postgame interview. “For us to honor him, being on the floor, this is what it’s all about.”
He went on to give a shout out to the widow of Kobe, Vanessa Bryant, 38, who is also the mother of his daughters, including Gianna Bryant, who died with him and 7 others in the crash, during the speech. “We’re thinking about the Bryant family, of Vanessa and them daughters,” he said. “They’re with us, we’re with you guys, we love you guys and hopefully, we’re making them proud by wearing these uniforms tonight and throughout the course of the postseason.”
LeBron’s heartfelt speech deems appropriate since the Lakers finals appearance is the first the team’s had since 2010, when Kobe won his fifth championship. The late basketball career dedicated his entire 20-year professional basketball career to playing with the Lakers after making his debut in 1996, when he was drafted right out of high school. LeBron has always made it clear how much of an impact Kobe has had on his own successful career and after securing a place in the NBA Finals last month, he mentioned it again.
“Every time you put on purple and gold, you think about his legacy and what he meant to this franchise for 20-plus years,” he said, while also explaining that they both shared the same “mindset” about wanting “to be the best.”
“That drive to always want to be victorious, it stops you from sleeping,” he continued, referencing Kobe’s own Mamba mentality. “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. I understand that. I’m one of the few that can understand the mindset that he played.”
One day before his tragic death on Jan,. 26, Kobe posted his last tweet on Twitter and it was about LeBron. “Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames. Much respect my brother #33644,” it read.