Death is never a good thing, but sometimes it is the spark of something bigger, deeper, that goes beyond the tragedy itself. For the city of Los Angeles, the death of legend Kobe Bryant, was the fire lit under the city, set to boiling over, emotions and a passion that could only be cooled by victory and championship rings. His death went beyond sports, but it meant even more to the teams and professionals, especially those of a certain Los Angeles Lakers, where Bryant spent the entirety of his 20-year career, wearing five NBA championship rings before his time was over. Everyone in Los Angeles wanted to win, in life, in sports, in everything, but a Lakers’ championship ring would be the perfect hommage to Bryant, and with LeBron James leading the way, the Lakers did pay their dues.
The season for the Lakers is always turbocharged with high expectations. With legends like Magic, West, Kareem, Shaq, and Kobe, that have left their mark on the organisation and the NBA, winning has become part of the team’s DNA and culture. Bringing in the best player in the NBA (except for 2016 when Stephen Curry was a beast) in the last decade, LeBron James, after the retirement of Kobe Bryant, meant the Lakers were doing rebuilding in a different style and expected winning nonetheless. After an understandably sub-par first season in LA, James was expected to once again lead the Lakers to the height of NBA glory after he got Anthony Davis as his supporting cast. The season was going as planned, the Lakers looked a threat, the new look LA Clippers were front-runner and favorites so the Lakers had less pressure to deal with. In what had been a year of big losses for the NBA and American sports as a community after a number of high profile deaths, Kobe Bryant’s death would be the straw to break backs, and even hearts. Then the pandemic would strike, spiraling players and the whole world into an even darker place. For four months, death tolls, a change in lifestyle, fear, uncertainty, and grief would torment but also spark a new fire in the hearts of the Lakers’ organization and players. When the chance came to restart the NBA season in a bubble, amid all the concerns, LeBron James, would be most vocal about seizing the opportunity. Upon the restart in Orlando, the Lakers had a different aura about them, even the Los Angeles Dodgers, the baseball team had an air of inevitability about them, they all wanted to play and win for Kobe. As the ultimate competitor, Bryant would have wanted nothing more than that, and these teams were bent on paying respect to the man, by channeling his mamba mentality.
The Lakers would waste no effort and energy in the bubble, torching teams on their way to the Lakers’ first championship ring in over a decade, a first since Kobe Bryant last led the team to the winners circle in 2010. This is the story of how tragedy won the Lakers a championship ring.
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