On Friday, the Los Angeles Lakers will make their first Western Conference Finals appearance since 2010, the year they played the Phoenix Suns.
The Suns were one of the most talented teams in the west, led by two-time MVP Steve Nash and All-NBA big man Amar’e Stoudemire, but the Lakers managed to win the series in six games because they had the most talented player on the court: Kobe Bryant.
In that six-game series, Bryant averaged an incredible 33.7 points per game on 52.1% shooting from the field, including 43.2% shooting from behind the arc. He also averaged 8.3 assists, 7.2 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game. The Suns had no answer for him.
Following the Lakers’ Game 4 win over the Houston Rockets on Thursday, Anthony Davis paid tribute to Bryant by wearing a shirt that said “G.O.A.T.” on the front with an illustration of Kobe Bryant below it.
It was a small gesture by Davis, but as the Lakers have gone deeper into the playoffs, they’ve been reminded of how much Bryant sacrificed to bring the city of Los Angeles five championships in his 20-year career — and now that he’s gone, they believe it’s as important as ever for them to carry on his legacy of excellence in any way they can.
“Not just me but the entire team thinks about him all the time,” Davis said. “We say, ‘Mamba on three’ after every timeout, every huddle, knowing that he’s with us, and knowing that we’re not only playing for our organization, but playing for him.
“Guys have their own little things that they do, their own little rituals to remember him ... We think about him all the time. I think about him all the time, on and off the floor. But I just think this was a dope shirt. I think the whole team got them sent to them. It’s just another thing to remember him by.”
Frank Vogel didn’t want to get into details about how the Lakers were honoring Bryant’s memory as a team when he was asked about it on Monday, but he reiterated that Bryant’s quest to be the best has been a recurring theme in everything the Lakers have done this season.
“Kobe is with us on our whole journey this year. We say ‘Mamba on three’ every day in practice, every time we’re together, and we’ll continue to try to represent what he stood for and honor his memory.”
Not everyone is a fan of the “win this for Kobe” sentiment and understandably so — it’s a lot of pressure to put on a team. However, it’s clear that the Lakers don’t mind it. In fact, it seems they’ve fully embraced it.
Only time will tell if they get it done, but with each game that’s passed, they’ve gotten closer to their goal in spite of the struggles they’ve faced along the way. That tireless effort is the best tribute anyone can pay to Bryant.
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