On January 26, 2020, Lakers legend Kobe Bryant along with his daughter Gianna and seven other passengers were killed in a helicopter accident. One year later, Lakers stars Anthony Davis and LeBron James share their memories of Bryant and explain his impact.
In the wake of Bryant’s death, Lakers guard Anthony Davis mentioned how he did not feel burdened to be the face of the franchise. Forward LeBron James and the Lakers were a support system to Davis.
“I leaned on Bron, Bron leaned on me and the organization just kind of helped us out,” Davis said. “And it wasn’t pressure of we got to do what Kobe did … when the tragedy happened, it was more so let’s do it for him.”
Despite his grief, James took on the onus of representing the franchise. Although the Lakers’ January 28 game against the Clippers was postponed, their next game was on January 31 against the Portland Trailblazers. Prior to the match, the franchise paid tribute to the five-time NBA champion.
“As the leader of the ball club, it was my job and my responsibility to take it all on and represent our team with the most strength that I could prosper,” James said. “I wanted to let everyone know inside this organization that I was okay with doing that.”
Bryant, Davis, and James were on the Team USA men’s basketball roster during the 2012 Olympics. Davis recalled the experience after they lost to the Blazers 127-119 on their first game since the tragedy. During one of their Olympic contests, Davis forgot to put on his jersey and could not sub into the game.
“Kobe got on me … basically like ‘why are you not going in the game, it’s your chance’ and I was like ‘I don’t got my jersey on,’” Davis said. “So now, before every game, I check to make sure I got my jersey on to this day.”
After the Lakers defeated the Milwaukee Bucks 113-106, LeBron mentioned how Bryant was one of the many NBA greats that he put on his wall in his youth.
“He had a nice collage on my wall,” James said. “He’s the guy who decided to make the jump from high school to the NBA. I was thinking about doing that at one point in my junior year … if Kobe has done it, that’s someone I can hopefully learn from one day.”
Bryant’s passing exposed Davis to the grandeur of his impact.
“I knew he’s very, very known and popular, but I didn’t know that he impacted so many people’s lives outside of basketball, from soccer to football, to players overseas, to people who don’t even play sports,” Davis said. “They’re all talking about that Mamba Mentality and I didn’t know how impactful he was worldwide.”
Davis was amazed by his ambidexterity when it came to shooting, while James was impressed with his ability to master NBA Legend Michael Jordan’s moves and incorporate them in his gameplay.
Current Lakers players do things to acknowledge Bryant’s legacy with the franchise, even their championship rings contained details that make a nod to the late Lakers legend.
On their road to their 2020 championship, Davis noted how Bryant’s presence was with them every step of the way. He took these things as a sign that they were predestined to win the championship for Bryant. One example he brought up was how the Lakers only lost one game when wearing their “Black Mamba” uniforms.
“We had a different approach every time we had the jerseys on. I think it was game 5 with Portland, the score was 24-8,” Davis said. “We had games in the season where it was signs on the scoreboard that Kobe was with us.”