The Los Angeles Lakers‘ fight for the 2019-20 NBA championship was a long, heartfelt journey. But, with one goal in mind — to win the title for Lakers legend Kobe Bryant — LeBron James and the purple and gold stayed locked in to “finish the job,” as Kobe always said. LeBron, who was crowned as the bubble’s Finals MVP, reflected on the team’s journey to victory in a post-game interview.
“If we weren’t already as close as we thought we can be, that made us even closer. That brought us even closer. Our ball club, we got as close as you can possibly be when that moment happened,” LeBron told NBA TV after Game 6 about the death of his good friend, Kobe. The NBA icon, who spent his 20-year NBA career with the Lakers, tragically died in a helicopter crash in California on January 26. His daughter, Gianna “Gigi” Bryant, who was 13-years-old at the time, also died, along with seven others.
LeBron continued, “Obviously, we know it brought the whole basketball world close as well, but when you’re internal and it hits home, it just means that much more and we locked in from that very moment and said, ‘This is bigger than us. This is bigger than us.'”
Fellow Lakers star, Anthony Davis echoed LeBron’s comments after the Lakers closed out the NBA Finals (106-93) against the Miami Heat on Sunday night. While fighting back tears, he dedicated the Lakers’ championship win to Kobe. “We know he’s looking down on us. I know Vanessa [Bryant] is proud of us, the organization is proud of us,” Davis said. “[Kobe] was a big brother to us. We did this for him.”
Vanessa celebrated the Lakers’ title win from a distance, but sent the team, including LeBron and Lakers Vice President of Basketball Operations and GM Rob Pelinka, congratulatory messages on social media. Pelinka was Kobe’s longtime friend and agent, as well as Gigi’s Godfather. “Go Lakers! Congratulations Uncle P,” Vanessa wrote over a throwback photo of Kobe and Rob on her Instagram Stories. “Congratulations @lakers. Kobe was top, RP! ‘Stay the course, Blockout the Noise.’ Wish Kobe and Gigi were here to see this,” she added.
On February 24, the city of Los Angeles, with the help of the Lakers organization, held a public memorial for Kobe at Staples Center. His wife Vanessa, former teammate Shaquille O’Neal, along with Kobe’s good friend Michael Jordan, were among those who gave heartfelt speeches. Four months later at the 2020 ESPYS on June 21, Snoop Dogg honored Kobe in an emotional performance, as well as ESPN, which aired a touching video of his career highlights.