LeBron James arrived for the L.A. Lakers‘ NBA Championships game four against the Miami Heat reminding everyone how the memory of the late Kobe Bryant is still with him every time he steps onto a basketball court. The 35-year-old superstar usually rolls up to playoff games in a stylish suit or outfit. But on Oct. 6 he got off the team bus wearing a simple white t-shirt that had a black drawing of Kobe making his famous motion with his jersey, pulling it out with his arms to prominently display the team’s name on the front. Kobe would do it every time he made a clutch move, and LeBron is hoping for some of that Mamba magic against the Heat. The Lakers’ official Twitter account shared two photos from inside the NBA bubble in Orlando, FL with the caption, “Mamba Mentality.” Turns out it worked, as the Lakers beat the Heat 102-96, going up 3-1 and are one game away from winning the 2020 NBA Championship.
Underneath the drawing were the words “More Than Ever” and “With Love 1978 – 2020,” noting Kobe’s untimely passing on Jan. 26, 2020 at the age of 41 in a Calabasas, CA helicopter crash. Kobe’s Mamba mentality about working the hardest when it matters the most is something that will help LeBron and his Laker teammates get past a tough Miami crew.
The team sported the special Kobe Black Mamba jerseys during game two against the Heat on Oct. 3, instead of their traditional gold and purple uniforms. After the 124-114 win against Miami, LeBron told reporters, “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,” in a postgame interview. “For us to honor him, being on the floor, this is what it’s all about.”
The Lakers squad, NBA players and fans around the world were shattered when Kobe was killed in January, along with his basketball prodigy 13-year-old daughter Gianna. As a team, the Lakers vowed to take home the NBA title in Kobe’s name, as the last time the Lakers players hoisted the championship trophy above their heads was in 2010, in Kobe’s last of his five NBA titles during 20 seasons with the team. He retired a beloved NBA superstar and lifetime Laker in Apr. 2016 at the age of 38.
The Lakers have shown their love for Kobe throughout their playoff run. The team first donned special “Black Mamba” jerseys during their opening round against the Portland Trailblazers Monday, Aug. 24. That happened to also be “Kobe Day” in L.A., as the date matched up to the two numbers he wore during his career, eight and 24. The jerseys featured a black snakeskin like pattern, and proved so popular even outside the NBA court. Eventual 2020 U.S. Open women’s tennis champ Naomi Osaka, 22, wore his black number eight Black Mamba jersey after every game of her march to the title in September, showing her love for a man who mentored her as an athlete. Naomi recalled when she told Kobe how she wanted to be just like him, he told her “No, be better.”
After Kobe’s death, LeBron got a tattoo in honor of the man he called his “big brother” in the NBA. It sits on his left thigh and featured a coiled up mamba snake with it’s head up and hissing. On either side are Kobe’s numbers 24 and 8, as well as two roses. “Mamba 4 Life” is written in cursive ink just underneath the art, and LeBron has sure brought that mamba mentality to get his Lakers to the NBA Championships. All he has to do now is get one more W and they will have won the first Lakers title in 10 years, in honor of the team’s greatest star.