On Sunday, the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Miami Heat in Game 6 to win the 2020 NBA title. It marks LeBron James’ fourth championship in his already stellar career — with his third different team, no less — and a mind-boggling 17th championship for the Lakers organization.
Throughout the playoffs in Orlando, Kobe Bryant’s tragic death has loomed large over the organization, and the Lakers as a team have not shied away from the weight of the unimaginable loss and the self-imposed pressure they readily assumed to bring home this year’s title as a tribute to the NBA legend who is gone far too soon. The paid tribute to him throughout the playoffs by regularly wearing their Black Mamba uniforms, originally designed by Bryant back in the 2017 season, and Anthony Davis discussed Bryant’s influence on the team after they hoisted the Larry O’Brien trophy.
For LeBron, it was much more personal. He and Kobe had developed a unique bond over the years as friends and competitors, and the loss hit LeBron particularly hard. On Wednesday, LeBron took to Instagram to share a simple but moving tribute to the man whose enormous shoes he’s had to fill as he’s taken up the helm for the franchise where he spent his entire career.
Many players would be hesitant to play for an organization whose star player cast such a long shadow, but LeBron welcomed the challenge from the beginning, and Kobe didn’t hesitate to welcome him into the fold and pass the torch when signed in free agency two summers ago.
The Lakers will now start looking toward the future, where they figure to remain as one of the top title favorites next season with their superstar duo of LeBron and Anthony Davis. There’s no doubt that Kobe would be proud of what his friend and team have accomplished this season, not to mention their potential to continue their dominance and extend the Lakers’ legacy.