From Anthony Davis’ game-winner to the re-emergence of Dwight Howard to a trip back to the NBA Finals, this postseason for the Lakers has been full of moments that remind Laker fans of the late Kobe Bryant. As the team prepares for Game 1 on Wednesday, a new story from Dan Woike of the Los Angeles Times shows one more way the organization is keeping Bryant with them as they look to hang banner No. 17.
A sampling from the Lakers’ Tuesday practice saw 13 players and coaches donning Kobe’s signature Nike sneakers, a daily reminder of Bryant’s legacy and connection to this team. While assistant coach Jason Kidd appreciates he can finally wear them without worrying about Bryant taking it out on him on the court, Howard said there was no choice but to lace them up for every game in the Bubble. And Davis, who grew up idolizing Bryant, called it “amazing” to see Bryant’s impact live on through the shoes and said he’d wear them for “as long as (he) can.”
But it was Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka who gave the best insight into the meaning of the sneakers to Woike. After all, as Bryant’s former agent, Pelinka was part of the design process with Bryant and Nike years ago.
“When I put them on, it just triggers so many incredible memories of sitting around a table where Kobe would be collaborating with the Nike designers about how he wanted the shoe to look and the inspiration behind it,” Pelinka said.
“… He was obsessed with the details. He was always reverse-engineering life, always look at the details. And when I put on that shoe, that’s the inspiration I get — how am I going to make the most of this moment, this day, this game. That’s what he stood for. That’s how he approached life.”
Wearing the sneakers, Pelinka added, is a “tangible reminder” of Bryant’s spirit and that of his daughter, Gianna, being with the team even all these months after their passing. That reminder is an “inspiration” for the team as they get ready to compete for a championship.