Exactly one year ago, the world was absolutely stunned, shaken, and altered by the incredible news that Kobe Bryant was killed in a helicopter crash in Southern California. Bryant, his 13-year old daughter Gianna, and seven others all died in the fiery crash as the chopper transported the group to a youth basketball game.
For the past years, fans, former teammates and friends of Kobe, and people that did not know him personally have found ways to pay tribute to one of the most admired, beloved and well-known athletes of anyone’s lifetime. His passing was so sudden, many of those closest to him have still not recovered.
The Lakers have found ways to honor the form team legend, one is in a tradition they began immediately after his death, that continues to this day. Each time the team leaves a sideline huddle and returns to the court, the players and coaches put their hands in a circle, someone counts down from three, and the team chants “Mamba” as they break the huddle and return to the court. They did it throughout their championship season in 2020, and continue it to this day.
The current Laker players, led by LeBron James have had to fight through their pain and grief for an entire year, and James still looks back at Bryant’s death, and his legacy, and recalls how difficult it was to resume playing games after Bryant had died. “I try not to put myself back in that headspace because it’s just too dark for not only myself but for our organization and for everyone that’s involved in it,” James said. “As the leader of the ball club, it was my job and my responsibility to take it all on and represent our team with the most strength that I could at that point and time. For the purple and gold, for Laker Nation, it was my job to take that, take that responsibility.”
LeBron did it extremely well, leading the Lakers to their 17th NBA title. They are on pace to win another one this season, and to a man, the players will say Kobe’s presence is still profoundly felt.