With the Los Angeles Lakers just three wins away from their first NBA title in a decade, owner Jeanie Buss is taking great pride in how the team has used team legend Kobe Bryant’s memory as a driving force during their postseason run.
Bryant’s stunning death in January was one of many aspects of what’s been a tumultuous 2019-20 season for the Lakers. However, the devastating sense of loss felt by the team was something that potentially could have derailed its success.
“This wasn’t created,” said Buss. “This wasn’t something like, ‘Oh, the front office is now going to dedicate the season (to Bryant).’ This is completely organic. This is coming from the heart. You can’t write this, because this is who these players are.
“I know what my relationship was with Kobe, and how generous he was with his advice and his support of me personally. I didn’t realize how much he gave to so many other people — of his time, of his wisdom. When you have the winner of the U.S. Open (Naomi Osaka) talking about her conversations with Kobe and how he inspired her, and people in other sports, and other countries. This is who Kobe was, and a reflection of how many lives he’s touched and will continue to touch.
“Grieving this loss is felt by everybody. Like, we all lost somebody who was a giving person and who stood for what somebody can accomplish with a mindset and a person that will be willing to do the work and work harder than everybody else and continue to push and challenge themselves. Those lessons that he taught us, and what he stood for, won’t disappear in time. He will forever be part of this franchise.”
The Bryant tragedy was one of a number of different personally sad moments during the season for Buss, who also lost her mother and had to deal with the death of former NBA commissioner David Stern.
Compounding the Bryant tragedy was the fact that one of the other eight victims in the helicopter crash that killed him was his teenage daughter, Gianna.
One unexpected roadblock in the Lakers’ season came in March, when the NBA was shut down because of the coronavirus and just as the team was preparing for the postseason.
That setback threatened to abruptly end what had been a big year on the court, but once play resumed, the Lakers showed a strong commitment toward winning a title.
A trio of 4-1 playoff series victories put them in the finals for the first time in 2010, with Wednesday night’s Game 1 victory getting them off to a rousing start in the finals.
Though Buss no longer has the elder Bryant’s counsel to count on, it’s apparent that his legacy will continue to be part of the Lakers organization.