Since Kobe Bryant called it a career in 2016, he’s distanced himself from basketball and stayed busy with his other creative endeavors, such as script writing for short films, podcasts and books.
However, on Monday, Bryant took a break from his latest obsession and took one of his four daughters, Gianna, to see Anthony Davis, LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers take on Trae Young and the Atlanta Hawks at Staples Center, where Bryant lifted both the Larry O’Brien Trophy and the NBA Finals MVP almost 10 years ago. Unsurprisingly, the home crowd ate it up.
“I got chills when the crowd started going nuts at his presence, and he deserves it,” Vogel said of Bryant and the ovation he got. “One of the greatest Lakers of all time and one of the greatest players of all time. We’re very lucky to have him here in attendance and definitely energized the crowd and our team.”
Luckily, Vogel and the Lakers made sure Bryant and Gigi got their money’s worth, even though they probably got the good ol’ “legends discount.”
The Lakers cruised to a 122-101 victory behind a dominant a dominant 33-point performance from LeBron James, which included a season-high six 3-pointers. Bryant saw James a ton up close during the 13 years they were in the league together — 22 times to be exact (not including All-Star games) — but Sunday marked just the second time Bryant’s seen James in a Lakers uniform in person.
“I’m just trying to put on a show for him and give him a reason to be like, okay we might come to another game,” James told reporters following the win, adding that he was honored that Bryant made a rare public appearance for him and his teammates.
“It’s fantastic,” James said of Bryant’s attendance. “I know he came to a game last year, and just having him in the building, just knowing what he did, what he meant to this franchise, what he means to LA, and for me and my teammates what it means to be a part of Laker Nation and Laker Family, it’s a beautiful thing.
“For me, I grew up watching him, admiring him. I was one of the kids obviously who had the chance to come straight out of high school (like he did),” James continued. “I was just watching him. It’s just so surreal for me, just from a kid from Akron, to be able to have a guy like Kobe just take time out of his day, even at this point of my career, is still special.”
James extended his thanks to Instagram, vowing to continue the tradition of championships that Bryant carried from legends before him.
It’s a tall task, for sure —especially with how balanced and competitive the Western Conference is right now — but James isn’t the only one Bryant lit a fire under with his presence. Davis also said that seeing Bryant courtside got him thinking about adding No. 17 to the championship shelf.
”I mean it’s great. I never thought I’d be playing here for such an iconic franchise,” Davis said. “Obviously nothing compares to what Kobe has done here, but I’m just trying to write my own story. Just taking it game by game, and year by year, and just keep building.
“Just seeing what he’s been able to do for this franchise, and then seeing him sitting courtside, it makes you think: ‘Can you do the same thing?’”
While it’s still early in the season, the Lakers are in as good of a position as anyone to be the last team standing in June. Through 13 games, they have an 11-2 record — the best in the NBA — the No. 1 ranked defense and a top-10 offensive rating. They’re legit, and with their light upcoming schedule, they’re not going to slow down any time soon.
Hopefully the next time Bryant shows his face at a Lakers game, it’s in June for an NBA Finals series.