Kobe Bryant: An Unexpected Source of Hope


Amanda Chang, Staff Writer

Kobe Bryant passed away just over one year ago, and though his unexpected death was a loss for many people, it also served as a source of hope for the Los Angeles Lakers. While they were away in the NBA Bubble for three months in the fall, he became their motivation, making their win all the more special.

About one year ago, an unexpected blow hit the world, one of the firsts of many to come in 2020. On Jan. 26, 2020, basketball legend and Olympic gold-medalist Kobe Bryant tragically died in a helicopter crash, along with his daughter Gianna and seven others. His death sparked a myriad of tributes and memorials worldwide, from Staples Center in Los Angeles to India and the Philippines. Even political leaders such as former President Donald Trump, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took part in offering their condolences and expressing their sorrow.

While Bryant’s untimely passing was a shock to all, it later became a source of inspiration for his former team, the Los Angeles Lakers. Bryant, who had played in the National Basketball Association (NBA) for 20 years, had only ever played for the Lakers. 

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many events like that of the NBA Championship playoffs were either canceled or postponed in the spring of 2020. So in the fall, the NBA invited 22 teams to play in the NBA Bubble in Orlando, Florida. There, athletes, coaches, and other employees of the teams were restricted in terms of the people they could see and places they could go, in an attempt to limit the spread of COVID-19. The Lakers were among the teams invited.

They would spend the next three months in the Bubble with few chances to see friends and family in person. Some players, such as Paul George, who plays for the Los Angeles Clippers, faced mental health issues due to the isolation.

George had “been trying to find ways to check out of basketball mode, which [could] be difficult to turn off inside the NBA Bubble, where there [was] no family and the forms of recreation available [could] be exhausted through the several weeks there,” reported ESPN.

However, in order to honor Bryant’s memory, the Lakers stayed strong throughout the season and the championships, where they won against the Miami Heat. 

“We know we had to do this for Kobe and Gigi and the rest of Laker Nation… this was a special one,” said Lakers forward Markieff Morris.

According to an article in Los Angeles Times, the team broke their huddles chanting “1-2-3 Mamba!” Members wore Bryant’s shoes and T-shirts, and left their signatures on signs bearing the words, “Leave a Legacy.”

During his time in the Bubble, Anthony Davis, a mentee of Bryant’s and a power forward and center position for the Lakers, yelled “Kobe!” after making what might have been the “postseason’s most memorable shot,” and is a play now known as “the Mamba Shot.” 

Another way the team honored Bryant’s legacy was by wearing the faux-snakeskin Black Mamba jersey that was co-designed by Bryant himself. When Davis made the Mamba Shot, he was wearing the jersey.

Bryant’s Mamba mentality, epitomized by his famous 2009 quote “The job’s not finished,” helped to motivate the Lakers to keep playing strong and to win.

After their relentless season, the Lakers won the championships, winning their 17th NBA title, tying with the Boston Celtics. Many of the mementos given to the team for their victory included tributes to Bryant, including the championship ring, which hides numerous “Easter eggs.”

“We didn’t let him down… Ever since the tragedy, all we wanted to do [was to] do it for him and we didn’t let him down… I know he’s looking down on us proud of us,” said Davis.

One year later, he “still [has] trouble with it, you still just can’t believe it,” Davis said to ESPN.

But Bryant has not just inspired his own team with his Mamba mentality. On Jan. 26, a year after Bryant’s death, the Kansas City Chiefs won the AFC Championship. The team was reportedly motivated by Bryant’s mantra, which, like it did the Lakers, helped them to win.

“Kobe has one of the best mentalities of all time…I take a lot from that. Going out there every day and not just being satisfied with where you’re at,” said Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. 

Besides simply the Chiefs and the Lakers, Bryant has had a profound impact on many, many others. 

“2020 has just been so wild for so many people, and [Bryant’s memory] was like the silver lining. It came at a good time. A lot of people were losing hope. All of L.A. felt that it was a huge part of this 2020 team,” said Gustavo Zermeño Jr. in an ESPN special in honor of Bryant.

His legacy and impact will live on.


Photo courtesy of PINTEREST.COM