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Lakers honor Kobe at NBA title celebrations

Lakers honor Kobe at NBA title celebrations

With hearts still unmade by the loss of Kobe Bryant, the players and fans of the Los Angeles Lakers paid tribute to their idol in an exciting celebration of the NBA title that, they made clear, also belongs to him.

The memory of Kobe crossed the entire United States on Sunday night, from the Disney World court in Orlando (southeast), where the Lakers defeated the Miami Heat in the Finals, to the crowded streets of downtown Los Angeles (west ).

It has been a decade, since the last of Kobe’s five titles in 2010, that the Lakers craved this ring that now equates them with the Boston Celtics as the most winning franchise in history and in which their former star has had a starring role, and not just for inspiration.

“I want to give Kobe Bryant a lot of credit. It’s a shame I’m not here to see the result of the work that he also did, “Magic Johnson, legendary former player and Lakers executive, said Monday.

“Kobe was working behind the scenes with Jeanie (Buss, owner) and Rob (Pelinka) and helping to recruit LeBron James as well,” he said.

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“I wish Kobe and Gigi were here to see this,” wrote the former player’s widow, Vanessa Bryant, in a congratulatory message on Instagram.

– “Kobe’s voice” –

From the “bubble” headquarters of Disney World, where the Lakers emerged victorious from three intense months of competition in isolation, Rob Pelinka summed up the sentiment of the entire organization: “Kobe and Gianna have led this team all year.”

Pelinka was one of Kobe’s closest people, whom he was an agent for for most of his two-decade Lakers career.

«Kobe’s voice is always in my head, always. Every day, every minute … Winning this championship does not take away the pain of loss, but it makes us add to his legacy, “said the executive, who assures that the winning character of the former player, the famous” Mamba Mentality “, was key to get through the toughest moments at Disney World.

“There were times in my hotel room – when you’re in a bubble for 100 days, it’s hard – I would hear his voice in the middle of the night: ‘Stay the course.’ Finish the task »he remembered.

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Pelinka, who joined the Lakers in 2017 after the retirement of Kobe, was key in the signings of LeBron James and Anthony Davis, the stars who have brought back a mythical team that lived the worst times in its history, with six consecutive seasons without qualifying for playoffs.

Following the deaths of Kobe, Gianna and seven others in a helicopter crash in January, LeBron and Davis vowed to uphold Bryant’s winning legacy and bring the Lakers back to the top.

“Kobe, I know he’s looking down with great pride (…) We miss him, and this is definitely for him,” said Davis, a newcomer to the team but whom Kobe sponsored when they met on the US team that won gold. at the 2012 Olympics.

– “Close the circle” –

With his first NBA championship in hand, Davis recalled how Kobe went out of his way to support this team before the tragedy.

“He would come to the game and tell us: ‘This is your year. This is your year. Get out there and get it, ”Davis said. “I was very confident in our team and in our organization to win this year.”

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Kobe was a constant presence in the Laker locker room at Disney World. The players shouted “1-2-3-Mamba” when gathering before the games, they wore the special “Mamba Edition” uniform that Kobe designed, their numbers 8 and 24 on the shoes and made their own motto: “Leave a legacy” .

Davis himself shouted Kobe’s name when he scored the triple win in a game against the Denver Nuggets, the so-called “Mamba Shot.”

Veteran Rajon Rondo, who played a key role in the Finals, said it was “an honor” to compete against Kobe as a player for Boston, where he won a ring in 2008.

“Winning for Kobe has been on my mind for a while,” Rondo said. “And to close the circle, win in his honor, in that of his daughter, the incredible season we have had (…) I know that he is definitely looking at us smiling.”

Around the Staples Center, the Lakers’ court in Los Angeles, thousands of fans ignored calls to celebrate in their homes due to the coronavirus pandemic and took to the streets with shouts of “Kobe, Kobe” and their idol shirts. AFP (HN)

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