Kobe Bryant’s tragic death on Sunday affects pretty much everyone in the NBA, but no team has been hit harder than the Los Angeles Lakers. Bryant was with the Lakers his entire career, helping lead them to 16 playoff appearances and five championships over his 20-year career.
To allow the organization to grieve one of its all-time greatest players, the NBA allowed Tuesday’s Lakers-Clippers game to be postponed. There’s been virtually no communication between the Lakers and the outside world since Bryant’s death (save for one tweet on Monday), but they’ve reportedly started the healing process by doing what teams do best: leaning on each other.
According to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin, the Lakers organized a luncheon on Tuesday that was open to players, coaches, and the entire staff. While the purpose was to gather and comfort each other during a trying time, people began spontaneously sharing their favorite Kobe moments.
LeBron James reportedly told a story about the Team USA game against Spain in the 2008 Olympics, during which Bryant completely dominated his Lakers teammate Pau Gasol.
James recalled in amazement the moment, just a few possessions into the game, when Bryant "blew up" Gasol when Gasol was setting a screen — he just ran straight through him, putting Gasol on the hardwood.
James said his reaction at the time was along the lines of, "Oh, wow, you're going to have to play with this guy next season ..."
Dr. Judy Seto, the Lakers’ director of sports performance, helped James understand why Bryant had done that to one of his non-Olympic teammates.
By mowing down Gasol, Seto explained, Bryant wasn't just trying to get in Gasol's head for the medal game, he was planting the seed for Gasol to obsess over what he needed to improve on for the upcoming season so that L.A. could win it all, which it did.
To bring the point home further, Bryant hung his gold medal in Gasol's locker at the start of training camp the following fall.
Several Lakers sources told McMenamin that the luncheon and impromptu story swap was “centering,” and that James and other Lakers players reportedly held a Kobe story session of their own on Tuesday.
ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne reported that at one point during the luncheon, everyone held up a glass of wine and toasted to Bryant’s memory. It was seen as a “healing” event, an important step on the long road of grief.
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