Kobe Bryant Elected into Naismith Hall of Fame 2020

(Image/Richard Mackson/USA TODAY Sports)

Kobe Bryant has officially been elected into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. After months of speculation the 5-time NBA champion will be posthumously inducted into the class of 2020.

Bryant spent 20 seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers and led the team to 5 Championship victories. Furthermore, he was named the NBA’s Most Valuable Player during the 2007-08 season, where he led the Lakers to the NBA Finals.

Throughout his career he reached an astonishing level of greatness, as he was named in the NBA All-Defensive team 9 times and and was an NBA All-Star on 18 occasions. They are just a few of an endless list of accomplishments from an NBA great.

Bryant was inducted into the class of 2020 with fellow NBA Champions, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett. Duncan won 5 NBA Championships with the San Antonio Spurs, alongside legendary coach Greg Popovich. Whilst Garnett won 1 championship with the Boston Celtics in 2008, as they triumphed over the Lakers in 6 games.

Controlling Owner and President of the Lakers, Jeanie Buss, expressed the emotion on behalf of everyone associated with the organisation.

“No amount of words can fully describe what Kobe Bryant meant to the Los Angeles Lakers. Kobe was not only a proven winner and a champion, he gave everything he had to the game of basketball…”

Jeanie Buss

At the time of Bryant’s retirement in 2016, he was the Lakers’ All-Time record scorer with 33,643 points. He also recorded 122 career 40+ point games, 26 career 50+ point games, and 6 career 60+ point career games. Including a 81-point outing against the Toronto Raptors back in 2016.

In addition, Bryant had 176 double-doubles throughout his illustrious career and led the US Men’s basketball team to gold medals at both the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and London Olympics in 2012.

Except for Bryant, no player in NBA history has had two of their jerseys retired for the same organisation. Kobe Bryant was a historical player for the Lakers, and for the sport. But he was bigger than basketball.

His impact on the world will live on forever, the Mamba Mentality will live on forever.


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In Memoriam: Kobe Bryant

(Image/Getty Images)

The first time I watched Kobe Bryant play basketball I was eight years old. It was his second year in the league and I was a bright-eyed budding NBA fan in a family that still prefers the collegiate game.

Michael Jordan was still the man in his last year with the Chicago Bulls, but everyone who was watching knew Kobe had next, even a short, skinny mid-western kid barely old enough to play with a full ten-foot rim.

I don’t remember how many points he scored or how many shots he took. I don’t remember the date of the game or even the opponent. But I remember the feeling of watching him play. Even his mistakes were captivating. I wanted to be able to do what he could do, and to make it look as easy as he did.

There are, beyond a doubt, tens of millions of others with more or less identical accounts. The outpouring of grief following Bryant’s untimely passing from fans, players, and admirers across the world is reflective of the deep reverence which so many of us will always hold for him.

There will be plenty of time in the coming weeks to recount his achievements, and it would likely take at least that long to get to them all. He was among the greatest scorers, leaders, and winners the game has ever seen, and we cheered for him because of it. But it was how and why he achieved what he did that made us love him.

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He was brilliant, curious, creative, obsessively competitive, and above all absolutely relentless. Spoiled Laker fans always rallied to him because he so eagerly embraced our championship-or-bust, excellence-or-nothing mindset. An entire generation of NBA players came of age armed with their own cherished legends about his work ethic and focus. Professional athletes are famously competitive, but no one ever claimed to work as hard as Kobe Bryant.

None of which should be taken to imply he was a perfect man. He was brash and impatient, especially in his youth. His exacting standards alienated those teammates who failed or refused to live up to them, which in the end amounted to most of the people with whom he ever played.

Yet it was how he reinvented himself in the wake of those mistakes and challenges that inspired us the most. After the blow up of the 2004 superteam that finally ended his playing days with Shaquille O’Neal and the resolution of his court battles, Bryant found himself stuck on mediocre teams and vilified in the media.

Watching O’Neal win an NBA title with the young Dwayne Wade during this time added insult to injury. Bryant’s career could easily have come off the rails under the strain of it all.

Instead, he withdrew into himself and redoubled his focus. If he couldn’t control many of his external circumstances, he could control his own effort and learn from his missteps. He created the alter-ego of the Black Mamba to isolate his personal problems from his performance. He emerged from the experience a better player, teammate, and person.

His reinvention culminated in two additional championships and, more importantly, his emergence as the supreme elder statesman of the NBA. Wade, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and others cited his example from the 2008 Olympic team as essential in their own development into true superstars. Every subsequent cohort of young talent sought his knowledge and advice, and he relished the role.

(Image/Jeb Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

For all of us who grew up idolizing Kobe, seeing him respond to extreme stress by learning and growing was an important lesson. The Mamba Mentality became about more than one person overcoming his personal problems to succeed at basketball. It became a symbol of persistence, an archetype for how to face down adversity with poise and intelligence. It made Kobe Bryant a role model in the purest sense: not as a perfect person to emulate, but as a highly imperfect person who showed us how to make ourselves better.

After basketball, Bryant had taken his passion for mentorship and communication to its logical conclusion. He produced children’s videos and stories. He turned his goodbye letter to the game he loved into a short film that won an Oscar. Every indication was that he had only begun to scratch the surface of his post-athletic potential.

There is never a good time to lose a childhood idol. Even so, losing him now seems particularly cruel. We can only imagine and sympathize as much as possible with the awful grief of his family and close friends. For those of us who knew him only as an icon and exceptional public figure, there is nothing for us to do but remember, commiserate, and raise a glass to the memory of a man whose absence will make the world a little darker.

Remembering Kobe Bryant Roundtable: Part 2

(Image/David Crane/Southern California News Group)

We return with part two of the remembering Kobe Bryant round table series. With the out pour of emotion within the Los Angeles Lakers community over the last week, a number of die-hard fans wished to speak about their love, respect and sorrow for the passing of the


Q: What emotions are you currently feeling now about the loss of Kobe?

Matt Evans: “A few days have passed now and the feelings have settled. But it’s still a shock how this could happen to such an iconic, influential human being. Along with his incredibly talented young daughter. Kobe was single-handedly the reason I got into basketball, why my passion for the Lakers is so big, and why every opportunity in basketball has been presented to myself. My thoughts and prayers go out to the Bryant family and also to those of the other 7 involved in the tragedy.” 

Jamie Cox: “I am still really struggling to get my head around it all. There are brief moments at work or home when other things take over and I forget for a few minutes but then I go back on social media and it all becomes far too real again. Going to take some time for it all to sink in.”

Nick Jones: “I have gone through stages of hurting, sadness, confusion, and emptiness. I’m starting to accept it now but still get emotional and tearful when seeing the players and ex-teammates reacting the way they have.”

Conor Hayward: “Kobe’s passing has affected me in a way that I didn’t see possible, I never thought I’d cry over the death of someone I’d never met before but I guess that’s a true testament for what he meant to me and for what he did for all of our lives. Kobe’s passing will go down as one of those horrible engraved memories that you can never budge, I’ll always remember where I was and what I was doing when the news was broken to me. It’s been 5 full days since this tragedy occurred and I’m beginning to come to terms with the fact that the pain his loss brings will never go but in time the Laker Nation family will grow and adapt and use his passing as motivation to strive for more.”

Mark Burland: “I’ve had a few days to digest this now. We “knew” Kobe because of basketball. He was a phenomenal player. But we said goodbye to Kobe the baller on his terms when he dropped 60. What makes me sad now is to see the reactions of those who knew him. Above that, those who were close to him – Rob, Jeannie, etc. And then above that still, to think about the pain inflicted on his family. That isn’t personal to me. Knowing Kobe the basketball player wasn’t the same as knowing Kobe the dad, husband, son, friend. I feel deeply sad for those that knew him that way, and the same for his daughter too.”

Steve Foster: “Man, pure shock still… I’m sure we’ve all suffered loss before, be it family, friends or even a celebrity figure you look up to… but even for somebody I didn’t know personally, this feels different… maybe it was the way he went… taken so early and completely out of the blue… when somebody passes away from illness, etc, obviously, it’s still gut-wrenching but, in a way, you can kind of come to terms with it before they go.

You grieve with them, you make the most of their time and look back on their life but you kind of know its coming so you get the chance to say goodbye… this was a total shock, like a bad dream. My thoughts are with his beautiful family, I can’t imagine how tough it is for them losing a husband/father and an amazing daughter/sister.”

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(Image/Ty Nowell/Lakers.com)

Q: What is your fondest Kobe Bryant memory?

Matt: “Mine would be going to see him play, for the first and last time. I was studying in New York at the time and a friend and I took a Mega bus up to Boston for the Lakers-Celtics game. I was truly in awe watching my basketball idol play. We got blown out but I didn’t care. I got to see Kobe play! I will carry that with me for life. The second-best memory (if you don’t mind me sharing) is his final game. 60 POINTS. WOW. I don’t think I need to say much more about that game!” 

Jamie: “Sadly, I didn’t have an NBA League Pass during the Championship seasons as only had this for the last few years. My fondest memory is, therefore, the 60-point game in his farewell game against the Jazz in 2016. I got up to watch it live and couldn’t believe how he finished the game, it was mesmerising. He put every single last drop of energy into his performance and went out the complete winner that he was.” 

Nick: “100% the shots vs Phoenix in 2006 playoffs to take the game into overtime and then the game-winner. It was my very first game watching from start to finish on Sky even though I’d followed Lakers for years. I fell in love with basketball and cemented my Laker fandom.”

Conor: “Wow, where do you even start with this question? I could sit here and write about all those spectacular moments piece by piece but for me, it would be Kobe’s final game against Utah, emotions were high that evening, I finished work at about 11 pm and came home ready for the 3 am tip-off, I knew from the get-go this that was going to be a mix of emotions but who could write something like that?! 60 POINTS, 60 in his final game.

I watch that game over and over at least every 6 months or so but in the last few days, I’ve probably studied his footwork from that game to a key. I loved Kobe for many reasons and one of them was because he knew how to put on a show and on April 13th, 2016 he rewrote history.”

Mark: “Easy, When Kobe compared DJ Mbenga to sloth from the Goonies.

“Hey you guys!”

Steve: “There are so many to think of, that’s one of the best things right now… scoring 81, the 5 championships, beating the Celtics(!), the friendship with Pau Gasol, the sheer, unstoppable, dynamic duo of Kobe & Shaq, the battles with some of the greatest to ever play the game… the list goes on and on! People throw the term ‘legend’ around pretty freely, but Kobe was, is and always will be a true legend.

I started playing basketball around 11 or 12 years old, at the time in the ’90s, I watched everything I could, never really supported one team, the Magic, the Bulls, Lakers, even the Knicks(!) were all good to watch. I decided to be a Laker fan the day Shaq signed, then this rookie straight from high school comes along, just a couple of years older than me… I watched some tapes and thought “this guy looks pretty good… going to be cool if he stays In LA with Shaq…” I never thought I’d be idolizing him and watching Kobe dominate the league for 20 years on my team!

His legacy will live on in the players today and the fans, that is something that doesn’t happen often,  if ever.”

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(Image/Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP/Shutterstock)

Q: What did Kobe Bryant mean to the greater NBA community?

Matt: “Kobe was so much more than an NBA player. He was bigger than basketball. Yes, what he did on the court was incredible and inspiring. But he did a lot for charity, especially through the Make-a-Wish outlet. Which was special to follow along with. He was also an accomplished businessman, author, poet. The man even won an Oscar! That was just as, if not, even more, inspiring. But most importantly, he was an accomplished father. He loved his children and you can tell that they adored their father. It’s truly a tragedy.”

Jamie:  “To me, he is a complete god and hero to myself and all Laker fans but the last couple of days have shown how much he meant to the whole NBA community. Every single game played since the news broke has had some form of glowing tribute to him and for a team like the Mavs to say nobody will ever wear the number 24 again when he never even played for them shows how highly thought of he was by everyone in the game. I thought that was an amazing gesture from them.”

Nick: “Everything. You can see it on everyone’s faces at the start of games and every interview. Even those who didn’t play against him or didn’t see him play in his prime. He was a mentor, friend, and idol to a lot of people involved in the sport.”

Conor: “Kobe Bean Bryant was my generation’s signature player for the NBA, he was involved in any conversation that included the NBA greats and was name-dropped in every interview with NBA players past and present, he was an idol to so many. Sadly, a lot of the great stories are never told until that person is gone but some of the stories we’ve heard from players lately have just been incredible, Kobe would lend a helping hand to even his biggest ‘rival’ and would help train and workout with any prospect that showed that true Mamba Mentality.”

Mark: “Anthony Irwin mentioned this a few days ago. The NBA lost a true ambassador for the sport in Kobe. He could reach international audiences in a way few true American sports stars ever have. He studied the game, respected the game, elevated the game. He knew the game was bigger than himself, but also had the awareness to know that what he gave to the game had value too. He would have mentored many, many more players (male and female) I’m sure. Basketball suffered a great loss.”

Steve: “Competition and inspiration. That dogged determination to be the best left a mark on even the casual fan, everyone knows his name… Most of the current players styled their game on his and studied film of him, just like Kobe did with MJ and other greats… That alone is a testament to the man… he lives on in all of us, from the fans to the best athletes in the world.”

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(Image/Harry How/Getty Images)

Q: How should we all remember Kobe Bryant moving forward?

Matt: “That Mamba Mentality. To work hard, achieve your dreams, don’t let anybody doubt you, do what you love, and so on. They are a few lessons he taught me. A few of an endless amount. Kobe will live on through all of those that found inspiration in him. If we could adopt 1% of his mindset, we can achieve what we want in life. I thank Kobe for that and I will live by his words. I already did.” 

Jamie: “It’s very difficult at this time to feel anything other than grief but once that passes a bit, we should all remember Kobe as a truly amazing Basketball player and athlete who gave absolutely everything to his chosen profession with a drive and passion for it that has probably never been seen before.”

Nick: “As a brilliant basketball player, the hardest worker imaginable and an amazing father. He had an unrivalled love of the sport and his dedication has inspired generations.”

Conor: “In time I hope we can take this awful event and use it for good, this season and every season will be for Kobe. August 24th now has a whole new meaning. It’s a cliche when people say, “what would he want you to do?” But at this moment I truly believe that Kobe would want his family, his teammates and his fans to make peace with his loss and to strive for everything that we want in life, make your dreams a reality. It’s still early days and tonight’s game against Portland will be tough for everyone but we will get through this, his teammates will get through this, Vanessa, Natalia, Bianka, and Capri will get through this, the Mamba will live on through every one of us.”

Mark: “His legacy is a player is secure. It was set years ago. I hope his legacy as father and mentor lives on through the Mamba academy and related charities. As Laker fans, we get to remember him as someone who helped bring great joy. He did it at the highest level, for one team, for nearly 2 decades. The statue had better be pretty amazing (and I hope it includes Gigi too). On that note – I hope that the Lakers figure out a way of retiring Gigi’s jersey. If the rest of the league decides to retire 24/8 I hope that happens organically – but I do think no one should ever be allowed to wear 24 or 8 at Staples (looking at you, Paul George).”

Steve: “Again, his legacy is there as an inspiration to current players and fans alike, whether you’re an athlete or an accountant, the ‘Mamba Mentality’ can inspire you to be the best person you can be. I know I’m going to continue to use it in my life, both professionally and personally… As a father, I want to do the best I can for my son and if I can be half the dad Kobe was to his kids I’ll be happy! Also, making sure my son knows Kobe’s name, even if the only time he says it out loud is when he throws his socks in the laundry bin, it’ll make me smile.”

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(Image/Robert Hanashiro/USA Today Sports)

Q: If you could give Kobe a message right now, what would you say?

Matt: “This segment could be never-ending, to be honest, but I would say thank you. Thank you. Thank you. And thank you again. You made a young, wide-eyed, intrigued boy develop a passion for an incredible sport and franchise. One that was not a natural progression being from the UK. That has built many opportunities in the sport of basketball for myself. And I thank you for that. Also, just thank you for the memories. The countless on the court memories. You inspired many generations and will continue in years to come. We will never forget you.”

Jamie: “I’d probably just say thanks for being you and for being so great and for providing me and the Lakers Nation with a host of awesome memories that will live with us all forever. R.I.P Kobe.”

Nick: “You have been my idol for 15 years. I miss you more than words can express. You are a true inspiration to millions across the world. I love you man.”

Conor: “Kobe, thank you.

You meant more than you can ever imagine to me, the effect you had on my life wasn’t just like my favorite basketball player, it was more than that, you were my idol and I idolized everything you attempted and accomplished. I can’t even tell you how often I use the number 24 out of pure love, whether it be making a new username or even something as crazy as throwing done some money on the roulette table, 24 is always at the forefront of my mind. Did somebody ask me for two random colors? They’re getting purple and gold regardless of the choice. The point of what I’m trying to say is that I live and breathe the Lakers, not because of the colors, not because of the numbers not because of the location but because Kobe Bryant made me fall in love with the Lakers organization. 

We love and miss you every day and you’ll never be forgotten, thank you for the blood sweat and tears, thank you for being Kobe Bryant.”

Mark: “Impossible to say. I’m a religious person, I believe he will live again!”

Steve: “Thank you, for everything.”

My Inspiration, Kobe

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Dear Kobe,

I never knew you personally, I’ve never met you or talked to you or had any interaction with you. Yet somehow, someway, you made an impact on my life more than I like to admit. Like so many others, I fell in love with your electrifying play-style, your charismatic smile, and all those post-game interviews that made me feel like working myself to the bone.

Kobe, you were the epitome of the grind. All us fans envied your dedication and passion to the sport of basketball. My very first article was about you, my first jersey was yours, and I would always be that one guy who mentioned your name during any NBA debate, whether you were a part of it or not. It was your highlights and your speeches that got me through any tough times. You were my idol, my role model, and my inspiration.

When you left basketball, I thought you would never be the same. There was no more platform for us to see your greatness anymore, but almost instantly, you made major strides in other industries. Winning Oscars, writing books, helping athletes, you brought the same level of excellence to everything you did. But of course you did, because that’s what the Mamba Mentality was to you, the constant pursuit of absolute excellence.

Kobe, you were the driving force behind so many people. You helped me pick myself up when I was down, helped me stay positive when nothing was going right, turn nothing into something. But now you’re gone, and there’s no driving force behind me to help me jump over this hurdle.

You’ve impacted so many people and brought everyone together, lovers, haters, friends, enemies, every-bodies, and nobodies. You may be gone, but you will forever be an icon to the city of Los Angeles, the Lakers, and the world.

Your Mamba Mentality will live on within all of your fans, and I pray that one day I can make someone as happy as you’ve made me all these years.

Thank you for everything,

Srikar

Love You Always, Kobe

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Dear Kobe,

First of all, before we get into anything else, I just want to say thank you. Thank you for coming into my life when I was a 2-year-old Laker fan, making me fall in love with the game at that young age.

Seeing you with Shaq and winning 3 championships cemented my love for the Forum Blue and Gold. The Number 8, and afro were iconic. The defensive chops, the crossover that got Scottie Pippen out of his shoes before ‘The Lob’. The way you took over the finals against the Pacers after Diesel fouled out was only something you could do. And it was only the beginning.

When you switched to 24, that’s when the second act started. The Black Mamba. Vino, as you aged gracefully. Another 2 championships with Pau and Lamar Odom and you did it all with class and humility. You also beat those guys from Boston in green that we will always be grateful for. 2012-13, when you willed a depleted, incredibly hurt the team to the playoffs; averaging 46 minutes a game until your body just said enough.

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What you did for USA basketball, and brought that back to the forefront was amazing. Without you, the Redeem team never would have happened, the 2012 Olympics were great too. And we would not have had that iconic game against Spain. I just hope you apologized to Pau after the fact.

As a father and outside of the basketball realm, you were in your zone. Still, the same Mamba Mentality that we saw and loved as a player but focusing it into different areas. People work for an Academy Award for DECADES, and then there was you, Kobe Bean, coming in clutch 2 years after retiring, conquering that world too. Your bond with Gianna was special and she would have grown up to be special too.

Mambacita was going to run wild in the NCAA and WNBA and be the person to carry along your legacy, be the best ever and have just as many records as the Mamba had. She had the same glint in her eye as you did, and you could just tell how proud you were of her, and that her excelling was more important to you than anything you had accomplished in your career.

I just want to say thank you, Kobe. Thank you for your 20 years in LA, for your 18 All-Stars, for your MVP, 2 Finals MVP’s, 33,643 Points, 7047 Rebounds and 6306 Assists. Thank you for the 5 titles you brought to our franchise. Thank you for instilling a Mamba Mentality into everything I do, making sure that I’m never satisfied with 2nd place. You gave this Bosnian Boy in Manchester a license to dream and taught him to work hard for each of those dreams to come true…

I still can’t talk about you in the past tense, and I still can’t come to grips with the fact there is no more Kobe Bryant in the world I live in. You wouldn’t want me to be distraught, you would have wanted all of us to instill Mamba Mentality even in these tough times and this is what I’m going to do. All my achievements will now be dedicated to you, my hero and idol.

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Hopefully, our paths will cross someday, in a place that none of us understand.

As you beautifully put, ‘I’ll always be that kid, With the rolled-up socks, Garbage can in the corner, 05 seconds on the clock, Ball in my hands.’ All because of you.

Love you always,

Alen

Remembering Kobe Bryant Roundtable: Part 1

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Here at Lakers Fanclub UK, we are mourning the loss of the larger than life, once in a generation talent, Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe “Bean” Bryant. The loss of Kobe, his daughter Gianna and the 7 other souls that perished on Sunday 26th January 2020 has had a profound effect on the Lakers community and has every person who has heard about this tragedy hugging their loved ones a little bit tighter.

We have a group of die-hard Lakers fans who are understandably incredibly upset and, broken-hearted about the loss of Kobe. We love and respect every member of our Lakers community and felt it was our duty to allow some of the members of our team to express their grief to try and heal.

Rest in peace to Kobe and Gianna Bryant, John, Keri and Alyssa Altobelli, Christina Mauser, Sarah and Payton Chester, and Ara Zobayan.

 The nine victims of the tragic helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant have been pictured

Q: What emotions are you currently feeling now about the loss of Kobe?

Amandeep Rai: “I think it’s kind of setting in now that this isn’t a hoax that we see from TMZ. Suddenly a dark cloud has formed above my head where I can’t escape this feeling- I guess it’s grief that will drift off eventually but it’s still pretty raw at the moment.”

Cole Pollard: “Still raw. I’m constantly going between being numb and crying. I just keep going back to it not being fair in my head. The man Kobe Bryant gave us so so much. He did not deserve this.

On Sunday night, a couple of hours after the news broke, I was scrolling through twitter trying to take in what was happening. The basketball world falling to its knees. Then I saw it, a video of a helicopter tail spinning and crashing into the Calabasas hills. Oh, how I wish I never saw that video, it keeps replaying in my head. All I can think is the panic and chaos those poor souls went through before impact. I hope they can rest now. And yet I can’t let Kobe rest.

As I type this it’s 1:30 in the morning, I have work at 8 tomorrow. Yet I am sat in my living room no thought of going to bed. Watching the 81 he gave us. I tear up with every shot he makes. One, in particular, 1 minute 15 seconds left in the 3rd Kobe makes a steal as Toronto tries to advance the ball, he controls it and throws it down hard on the rim. That embodies Kobe, he made it look easy. But it wasn’t. It was his hunger and drive to be the greatest ever that made everything he did look so effortless. Yet you could tell it was so exhausting.”

Christopher Sherwood: “I can’t sugar coat it. I feel empty. Kobe was always an escape for me from the harsh reality of real life. No matter how tough the day, I knew I could stick on the Laker game and there was a fairly good chance he could cheer me up. Losing him, especially like this, is a harsh reminder of how short life is.”

Jonathan Kiernan: “I felt physically sick when I heard the terrible news about Kobe Bryant. He has been my idol for 20 years, I have grown up with him and have become an adult with him. I had always thought that Kobe would still be around long into my older years and he would be a Bill Russell esque figure in the NBA, dropping pearls of wisdom and making sure that every player he comes into contact with knows what has come before them.”

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Q: What is your fondest Kobe Bryant memory?

Amandeep: “My fondest Kobe memory was when his jerseys were retired, I don’t know why but I felt that scene gave us all closure and kind of somewhat closed his chapter and era in the Lakers, a fitting send-off.”

Cole: “The final game, he gave us everything man, emptied the tank. I remember it as I hadn’t fallen deep for basketball yet. I remember thinking to myself, tonight is gonna be something special, something real.

Up until that point, I would rarely stay up for games. But that night I went to bed early, I must have set about six alarms, and I got up and watched that magic. I remember the chills as he got hot. The pure elation as he came up, went around that screen and gave us, the Lakers, the NBA, the World, one last game-winner.”

Christopher: “It would have to be being in the building with my dad when he dropped 62 on Dirk and the Mavs in just three quarters. The energy inside Staples that night was simply incredible. It was almost as if every shot he took was certain to go in.

A close second is winning the 2010 finals and watching my best friend (a Celtics fan) slump out of my living room into the night at 5 am to embark on a 30-minute miserable walk home. Victory never tasted sweeter.” 

Jonathan: “My fondest memory of Kobe has to be winning his 5th ring against the Boston Celtics in 2010. Kobe did not shoot well that game but he helped anyway he could by grabbing numerous boards and playing tough defense.

Watching the final buzzer sound and Kobe mounting the scorer’s table will forever be etched into my memory as long as I live.”

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Q: What did Kobe Bryant mean to the greater NBA community?

Amandeep: “Kobe Bryant far surpassed the NBA community, surpassed borders/cultures and sports. He was and still is an icon. His sporting career speaks for itself, but his mentality and his attitude to being a parent is something everyone can learn from.”

Cole: “All you have to do is watch the first 32 seconds of every game and you have your answer. It moves me to see the teams and the fans, that Kobe relished in upsetting all these years, put all that aside and recognize that a Father, a Husband, a Son, a Brother, a Teammate, and an Icon perished tragically and suddenly on Sunday. Not to mention a young woman who was going to change the way the world looks at the WNBA.

This is more than Basketball, this is a sign that life is short. It comes and goes in a moment. It doesn’t matter what you have in any other aspect of life. If you have family, you have everything. Kobe had that. The world knows and appreciates that.”

Christopher: “He was a legend in every sense of the word. Larger than life. You only have to look around the association to see the impact Kobe had. Today’s players grew up on Kobe (as I did) and his imprint is on so much all around the league. It will be interesting to see what the league does to commemorate him moving forward.”

Jonathan: “From the sheer outpour of emotion in the NBA community it is incredibly clear to see how highly thought of he was not just in the NBA but worldwide.

Kobe gave a helping hand to those willing to learn. He demanded excellence from each player he spoke to or any person who wished to improve their focus, leadership or dedication to their craft.

The NBA has lost a titan of the game. I am firmly a believer that they should make Kobe the NBA logo. A Laker legend replacing a Laker legend (Jerry West, who drafted Kobe) as the logo. It would be poetic and a terrific and long-lasting recognition of a player who gave everything he had to the game of basketball.”

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Q: How should we all remember Kobe Bryant moving forward?

Amandeep: “A loving father, teacher, guardian, and student also. The greatest laker to put on a uniform and perhaps the most driven athlete/writer that I’ve seen in my lifetime.”

Cole: “Mamba Mentality, we all know it. Its a way of life, a roadmap of a champion. Kobe was the pure embodiment of a champion. Never would he hide from the greatest moments. Even as a young man he would try his best to rise to any occasion. We all know about the air balls. I remember Jerry West said “If somebody would have shot an airball on our team, and shot a second one. They ain’t gonna shoot the third one. He was fearless. I think that’s one of the things that spurred him to greatness, he wasn’t going to allow himself to fail.” And so as he grew as a player, as a man. he no longer had to try, he just did. It just happened. Suddenly a kid who came straight out of high school was a man. and that man was a stone-cold killer, with a glassy stare to boot. I urge anyone reading this to continue his legacy. Any decision you have to make. Ask yourself,
‘What Would Kobe Do?’.”

Christopher: “As an inspiration. Not just as a basketball player, but as a father and a human being. If you apply his work ethic to any task you need to in the future there’s a pretty good chance you will succeed.”

Jonathan: “An easy answer would be to say that he should be remembered as one of the greatest players of all time. A person who pushed the game to new heights and who didn’t waste a single ounce of talent he had.

That’s the easy and popular answer.

I prefer to remember Kobe as a family man, as a person who loved his family with his whole heart and who took greater pride in seeing his family happy than he ever did winning any game or award.”

 Q: If you could give Kobe a message right now, what would you say?

Amandeep: “Thank you, Kobe, learning about you and your mindset allowed me to prosper in my own life, I thank you for the years you gave in the purple and gold, and I thank you for becoming a role model in which I can focus on in my industry. You will be forever remembered, we will carry on your legacy. Rest in peace GOAT.”

Cole: “I spoke to him through my medium on Sunday night. If I could speak to him again, writing this 24 hours later. I would tell him “I’ll come to speak to you again soon” and I’d tell him again “Thank You, Love You, Cole.”

Christopher: “Thank you for all the memories and for bringing so much joy to my life. To say you will be missed will be an incredible understatement. Love you Mamba x”

Jonathan: “Thank you, Kobe, for giving me one of the greatest passions in my life. Your ability to push through adversity, injury and overwhelming odds has given so many people hope to push past the difficulties in their life and come out the other side wiser and better people.

You taught people to dream big but you have got to work harder than everyone else in the room for it. Just know that the Lakers community will never forget your name and when my time comes to visit the pearly gates, just know, I got next.”

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My Hero, Kobe

This piece on Kobe Bryant has been sent in by a Twitter follower of ours, Chris Sherwood.

Chris wanted us to share this with you all. We are very thankful that he has taken the time to put together such a moving piece on Kobe.


What can I say about Kobe “Bean” Bryant? To put it simply he was my hero. 

When I was having a tough time, whether it be at school, or later on in life at work. I always knew that I had Kobe and the Lakers to lean on.

I lost my father 6 years ago, some of the fondest memories I have with him are the two of us, sat at Staples taking in the greatness of Kobe Bryant.  I was lucky as a teenager to spend a fair bit of time in Southern California, and for an English Laker fan this meant we HAD to soak up as much Laker basketball as humanly (and financially) possible! 

We were in the building for some great games such as his 62 point game in 3 quarters against the Mavs, game 3 of the 2006 Series against the Suns, and the Lakers-Celtics game on Christmas Day (where we got our first taste of revenge after the 2008 finals).

My best friend is a Celtics fan and we have spoken about our shared grief. During his career we thought of Kobe on opposite ends of the spectrum as hero and the villain, but what he stood for as a competitor meant so much to both of us.

Kobe Bryant meant the absolute world to me, and I know inspired so many people all across the world. 

Rest in peace Mamba, Mambacita, and all those lost in the tragic accident. 

I’ve attached a couple of images. One of a photo I have up on my wall of the 62 point game with the ticket in the frame.

And also a photo from that game with myself and my father in the crowd (main article image).

P.S. My dog is named after Kobe!

Thanks,

Chris 

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Dear, Kobe

(Image/Rocky Widner/Getty Images)

Dear Kobe,

Thank you.

Thank you for your spirit, your endeavor, your heart, and your guidance. As a young boy growing up, basketball was never an option as a kid from England. However, the first time I ever saw you play on TV in the purple and gold changed all of that. The intensity you committed to every play and your determination to win at every juncture was inspiring. This is what made me love the game.

Growing up the mamba mentality continued to guide me in every decision I made, be that work, family, or life. Your attitude was the driving force behind my belief that anything could be possible in life if you just work for it. Your belief in yourself led me to believe in myself. If Kobe can do it, I can do it.

I’d often find myself in times of trouble thinking ‘What would Kobe do’ and that would get me through. Your mentality has been passed down to so many people across the globe and I hope that you realized the impact you made on so many.

Basketball was simply the vehicle you used to inspire and for that, I will be forever grateful. LA was your home, and it’s my home too, thanks to you.

Mamba will never be out. Kobe, you are always with us.

Ashley Hooper

Thank you, Kobe

Thank you, Kobe.

Thank you from that young kid that watched you play growing up, from the United Kingdom. Thank you for helping me learn and develop an understanding of the game of basketball. Thank you for being there as my passion for the Lakers grew.

Thank you from the adult that I am today. Thank you for the mesmorising performances over the years. Thank you for the championships. Thank you for all of the life lessons you taught me off-the-court.

You were the reason I become a basketball fan. My passion for the Lakers grew single-handedly from you. Every opportunity I’ve had in basketball stems from you. Thank you, Kobe, from the bottom of my heart.


I was truly shocked when hearing the news of Kobe Bryant’s passing yesterday. I really couldn’t believe it at first. The Lakers are a family-owned franchise. The fans are part of that family. Players past and present are part of that family. Kobe was part of that family.

The out-pour of grief from those of all ages across the world shows the impact he had. Not just on Laker fans, not just basketball fans, but anyone across the globe that found inspiration in him.

Everyone knew who Kobe Bryant was, and knew the impact he had on basketball, even if they weren’t particularly a fan of the sport.

You really can’t round-up this man’s accomplishments. They were never-ending. Millions, hundreds of millions of fans had a personal connection with Kobe, they had their own favourite moment, their own moment of inspiration. Even if they hadn’t met him.

It wasn’t just his demeanor on the court that was infectious, but his demeanor off-the-court that was so calm, motivating. He never stood down from a challenge and saw the bright light in all situations. Good or bad. That was infectious to us all looking on.

Those electrifying performances night-in-night-out are unforgettable. He really brought his A-game every single night. The dedication to succeed, the passion to dig deep to achieve dreams, I will carry that forward in life. As will many. That’s the effect he had on us all. That mamba mentality.

Kobe immortalised himself through that stellar playing career. Those “8” and “24” jerseys will hang from the Staples Center rafters forever. They will be a reminder to us all, and generations to come, of the impact Kobe had on us all.

Kobe Bryant was an accomplished basketball player, businessman, author, poet, and most importantly, an accomplished father and husband.

From everyone associated with Lakers Fanclub UK, our thoughts and prayers go out to the Bryant family and to those affected from this tragedy.

Rest easy, Kobe. You will be dearly missed.

The Lost Decade – Part 1 (2010-16)

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A once-dominant franchise looked into the abyss. Then, improbably, it found its way again.

Pau Gasol grabbed the rebound, turned, and quickly tossed the ball to Lamar Odom. Odom, checking the clock, hurled the ball down court to no one in particular as the final seconds of the game ticked away. Kobe Bryant chased the ball down and, making his way slowly and emotionally through a sea of elated teammates and confetti, mounted the scorer’s table to commune with the delirious crowd at Staples Center.

It was June 16, 2010, and the Los Angeles Lakers had just secured their franchise its 16th championship and second in a row, this one over the rival Boston Celtics. The core of Bryant, Gasol, Odom, and Andrew Bynum looked to remain intact for years as Bynum entered his athletic prime. Jeff Van Gundy spoke for much of the basketball world when he said on the broadcast just after that Game 7 victory, “there’s no reason to think this team couldn’t three-peat.”

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But they didn’t. That failure, and the team’s increasingly desperate efforts to secure Bryant a championship-caliber team for his final years in the league, set in motion a cascade of misfortunes that saw the Lakers fail to see playoff basketball for six years running – far and away from the longest such streak in franchise history. Now, ten years after Bryant hopped onto that table clinging to the game ball, the Lakers are once again hunting the ultimate prize.

The Decline

During the 2010 playoff run, there had been signs that the Lakers and Spurs were no longer as far ahead of the Western Conference as they had been for ten years. The Lakers had to endure two bruising series – in the first round against a rising Oklahoma City Thunder team featuring Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden and in the conference finals against Carmelo Anthony and the gritty Denver Nuggets – before even seeing Boston. 

The team’s off-season moves in 2010, adding wing defender Matt Barnes and backup guard Steve Blake while re-signing Derek Fisher, were meant to ensure the depth and defensive toughness needed to fend off up-and-coming-teams in the West. The Lakers managed to post a 57-25 regular season in 2010-2011, good for the second seed in the competitive West and identical to the team’s 2009-2010 performance. Odom became the first Laker to win 6th Man of the Year.

Yet, in the second round of the playoffs, the Lakers were dominated by a Dallas Mavericks team playing a surprisingly modern brand of basketball. Combining Dirk Nowitzki‘s smooth jumper and isolation play with Jason Kidd‘s pick and roll dominance and spacing the floor for them with a bench full of shooters, they clinically dissected the vaunted Laker defense in four games.

The Lakers’ frustration with their inability to slow down the Dallas attack boiled over in the 4th quarter of a 30-point blowout in Game 4, when Bynum delivered a forearm shot to an airborne J.J. Barea, ensuring that he would begin the 2011-2012 campaign with a suspension. The ugliness of the hit and the game in which it took place to cast a pall over the Lakers’ off-season. There was a sense that major changes would have to be made.

(Image/Tom Fox/Dallas Morning News)

The first change came immediately after the playoffs, when longtime head coach Phil Jackson, who had been diagnosed with prostate cancer, announced his retirement. Former Cavaliers coach Mike Brown, freshly fired after consecutive 60 win seasons coaching LeBron James, was hired to replace him.

Then the off-season was derailed by a stalemate between the league and the Players’ Association on a new collective bargaining agreement. Training camp, preseason and the month of November passed without a resolution. In the meantime, budding superstar Chris Paul had informed the then-New Orleans Hornets that he did not intend to resign with the team the following year.

Seeking a younger star whose prime – alongside Bynum’s – would prolong the Lakers’ championship window for Bryant, and with one eye on Bryant’s eventual retirement, Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak made his move. A three-team deal was arranged that would move Paul to the Lakers and Gasol to the Rockets, with New Orleans being compensated with several rotation players in Odom, Goran Dragic, Luis Scola, and Kevin Martin, along with a first-round pick from Houston.

But the basketball world was to be stunned twice on the same day. Only hours after the trade was reported, Commissioner David Stern announced that he was vetoing it because New Orleans, which was owned by the league at the time, had received what he considered inadequate compensation.

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Fury among smaller market owners at the persistent ability of large markets and big-name teams to lure young stars away from their own teams – and still stinging from James’ dramatic departure from Cleveland to Miami the previous year – was rumored to have played a part in the decision to prevent the Lakers from pairing Paul and Bryant. In any case, the deal that sent Paul to the Clippers shortly thereafter was not obviously more advantageous for New Orleans than the one offered by the Rockets and Lakers from a basketball perspective.

Meanwhile, the cancellation of the trade put the Lakers in an extremely awkward position relative to Odom and Gasol, who had been made painfully aware that they were considered expendable. Odom voiced his displeasure openly and was speedily dealt with Dallas to prevent further unpleasantness.

Gasol clearly wasn’t pleased with the idea of being moved but took a philosophical approach. “I understand (Lamar’s) response, and I understand how he felt about it and how you could feel that way. But you have to look at it from a different perspective and not try to take it so personally.”

After serving his suspension when the season finally began in late December, Andrew Bynum played like a potential franchise cornerstone. Putting up career numbers in both points and rebounds at 18.7ppg and 11.6rpg, he peppered the season with several exceptional individual performances. Alongside Bryant and Gasol, he helped lead the team to a 41-25 record in the lockout-shortened season, good for third in the west.

Yet again, however, the second round and eventual Western Conference champion proved too much for the Lakers. This time, it was Durant, Westbrook, and the Thunder who sent them off in a one-sided 4-1 series. The Thunder were big enough to compete with the Lakers’ elite size but did so on younger legs and with superior athleticism. Durant put on a scoring display against his former idol Bryant, and once again a Laker team with title aspirations found itself at home watching the Conference Finals.

(Image/Richard A. Rowe/OKC Thunder)

At this point, the Lakers and Bryant himself began to grow desperate to build a roster that was capable of championship contention. It was increasingly clear that the roster as it was, two years older since their last real playoff run and missing major contributors from that year, was simply not able to beat elite teams in the postseason anymore. Rumors pointedly connecting the Lakers to Dwight Howard began to circulate.

The Dwightmare

The first domino to fall in the fateful summer of 2013 was not Howard, but Steve Nash. Nash and the Phoenix Suns had mutually agreed to part ways, and executed a sign-and-trade that involved the Lakers sending two first and two second-round draft picks for his services. An all-time great facilitator and shooter, Nash remained widely respected around the league but faced questions about his health and advanced age at 38.

Then a month later the larger shoe – both literally and figuratively – dropped. In a ludicrously complicated deal involving four teams, the Lakers gave up Bynum and two more lightly protected draft picks and received as compensation Howard, Earl Clark, and Chris Duhon. With the addition of bona fide superstars in Howard and Nash to pair with Bryant and Gasol, the Lakers seemed poised to return to the top of NBA basketball.

The combined Nash and Howard trades were recognized at the time to represent a colossal risk, but with a potentially colossal payoff. The talent level alone provided championship potential if everything went right. There were, however, a disconcerting preponderance of things that could go wrong.

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First among worries about the new team was health. Howard was coming into the year in recovery from back surgery, and Nash had back concerns as well as his age to contend with.

The second was the scheme. Coach Mike Brown had made the decision to utilize a Princeton offense. He made the decision well before the Nash and Howard trades and may have done well to reconsider. The offense, which emphasized screening and passing reads over post isolation for bigs, was more suited to the combination of Bynum and Gasol than Howard, who expected to be a focal point of the Lakers offense from the low post.

Perhaps most importantly of all, Howard’s free agency at the end of the season loomed over everyone.

Things began to go wrong very quickly. The team lost all 8 of its pre-season games and first three of the regular season as they struggled to integrate both new players and a new scheme. Nash suffered a non-displaced leg fracture in the second game of the year and missed almost two months. Howard, looking to make a point, played from the beginning of the year in spite of expectations that his surgery could keep him out until January. He was never 100%.

Coach Brown finally won a game with his new team against Detroit on November 4 and was promptly fired. The front office was very impatient to see a team with so much talent come together, and quickly reached a judgment that Brown wasn’t the man for the job. After a brief flirtation with bringing back Phil Jackson, who requested time to consider, the Lakers instead brought in former Nash coach and offensive mind Mike D’Antoni.

Injuries and a lack of clear roles continued to hurt the Laker’s record and their chemistry. Nash and Bryant were frequently at odds with Howard, who continued to push for post-up opportunities instead of embracing the more active role prescribed for bigs in D’Antoni’s fast-paced offense.

“It’s been difficult really to get him into that game – running into pick and rolls, diving hard, looking for the ball,” Nash told local media in February. “We really haven’t found that rhythm from him yet.” The Lakers limped into the All-Star break at 25-29, sitting several games out of the playoff picture.

The day after the All-Star game, Dr. Buss died after a long fight with cancer, leaving the running of the team to his six children, principally Jeanie and Jim. It appeared to be symbolic: the man who had turned the Lakers into “Showtime” and seen them win 10 championships in his 33 years of ownership passing away just as his team seemed to be unraveling in slow motion.

After the break, as the team fought through injuries and continued friction in the locker room, it was Bryant who began to simply take over. Securing game after game with exceptional individual performances for a player in his 17th season, Bryant leads the Lakers to a league-best 20-8 mark following the All-Star game. He was himself fighting through a host of small injuries, and his minutes and intensity were so high during this stretch that Kupchak reportedly spoke to Bryant about preserving his body. Bryant replied that his efforts were needed to secure a playoff spot.

He paid the price with three games to go in the season. Making a move late in a game against the Golden State Warriors, Bryant hit the floor on a foul call, reaching immediately for his ankle. After hitting his free throws, he went to the locker room and did not return. After the game, the team confirmed that Bryant had torn his Achilles tendon. The injury, everyone knew, effectively ended the Lakers season. Bryant had dragged them into the playoffs, but without him, the Lakers had no chance against Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs in the first round.

(Image/ Hans Gutknecht/Los Angeles Daily News)

With Nash out from a lingering back issue that came attached with nerve damage and Bryant out for the better part of a year, the Lakers blitzed Howard with over-the-top shows of affection in an attempt to convince him to re-sign after a dumpster fire of a season. They did not work. Howard chose to leave the pressure of Los Angeles – reportedly after ownership refused to part ways with Bryant – and team up instead with James Harden in Houston.

Howard’s departure, while not entirely unforeseen, still came as a gut punch to the organization. For the second time in a decade – along with Shaquille O’Neal‘s trade request after the 2004 season – a star center had decided to leave Los Angeles rather than continue playing with Bryant. Howard was gone, Nash was approaching 40 with chronic back issues, and Bryant had just had his 17th NBA season ended by one of the most devastating injuries in sports. Adding insult to injury, the Lakers had given up a slew of draft picks to acquire Nash and Howard, limiting their ability to make additional moves to stop the bleeding.

The Lakers were out of options, forced to acknowledge something that they had avoided for decades. For the next several years, the last of Bryant’s career, they were going to be a bad team.

Rock Bottom

With little expectation that Bryant would be available for much if any of the 2013-2014 season, the team put together what amounted to a discount roster. They realized they weren’t likely to see playoff basketball and decided to plan for the following year instead, padding the roster with light contracts while moving their long term commitments. They could use the draft picks remaining to them to draft or trade for promising talent and pair that talent with Bryant and Nash to attract free agents when the season was over, or so the front office reasoned.

Yet, astonishingly given his injury status and age, early in the season the Lakers made Bryant the highest-paid player in basketball with a two-year contract extension. The team framed the widely-criticized contract as a loyalty move, rewarding Bryant for sticking with the team and delivering with such regularity. The unavoidable fact, however, was that giving so much money to Bryant limited the team’s ability to put together a title-caliber roster, even if a star free agent chose to join them.

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After a surprising 13-13 start, the season regressed to expectations. Bryant miraculously returned from his Achilles injury in December only to go down a week later with a broken bone in his knee, once again out for the season. Nash, constantly struggling with back issues, played only 15 games and was unable to make an impact even when playing. The Lakers finished 27-55, losing the most games in franchise history. The leading scorer for the season was Nick Young at just over 17ppg, edging out an aging Gasol.

Over the summer of 2014, the Lakers drafted promising Kentucky forward Julius Randle and little-known guard Jordan Clarkson from Missouri. They also parted ways with Coach D’Antoni and replaced him with Showtime-era Laker, Kobe Bryant mentor, and former NBA Coach of the Year Byron Scott. Looking to pair a max-contract caliber player with Bryant and Nash, the Lakers and Gasol parted in free agency after 6 years and 2 title runs.

After making concerted efforts to sign Carmelo Anthony or Kyle Lowry in free agency and even making a long-shot pitch to LeBron James, the Lakers found themselves empty-handed. No elite player wanted to attach themselves to a roster with two injured, aging stars and a collection of unproven youths and mediocre role players surrounding them. Bryant’s contract had predictably become an albatross, helping to keep elite free agents away because market-savvy players knew the team wouldn’t have the money left over for a high-level supporting cast.

The front office entered a holding pattern, repeating its process from the previous year by padding out the roster with cheap, short-term contracts and waiting out the season.

The Lakers’ 2014-2015 season was aptly summarized on opening night when Randle went down with a broken leg that ended his rookie season in an 18-point home loss to Houston. Clarkson played very well throughout the season in a role enlarged by injuries, but he was the lone bright spot in another lost year.

Bryant, returning from his second consecutive season-ending injury at 37, was a shell of himself and only able to play 35 games. Nash never saw the court, choosing to retire instead of continuing injuring his back. The team finished 21-61, breaking the previous year’s record for most losses in Laker history.

Armed with the second overall pick in 2015, the Lakers selected lefty point guard D’Angelo Russell and supplemented him late in the first round with a freak athlete in Larry Nance, Jr. As in the previous two years, however, the Lakers struck out on top-flight free agents. They made runs at LaMarcus Aldridge and Marc Gasol, but with the state of their roster never merited serious consideration. Embarrassingly, the Lakers asked a bemused Aldridge for a second free agency meeting after media reports surfaced that he had been unimpressed with their first attempt. He chose the Spurs. The Lakers instead added Roy Hibbert, Lou Williams, and Brandon Bass.

The 2015-2016 season was widely expected to be Bryant’s last, and he confirmed that shortly after the season began. With that announcement and the acknowledgment that the preponderance of youth on the team made playoff contention unlikely, the season became the Kobe Bryant Farewell Tour. Crowds everywhere he went cheered him wildly while their teams beat up on the Lakers on the court. He did his best to perform, but as he said, he no longer had much left to give.

During the season, the team suffered from chemistry issues as Russell struggled with his maturity and the old-school, tough love mentality of Coach Scott. Navigating the locker room and coach while playing in the shadow of Bryant’s last year, all while finding his role alongside similarly ball-dominant guards in Bryant and Clarkson, made Russell’s rookie year a difficult one.

The Lakers’ 17-65 record was, for the third year running, the worst in their history. Kobe Bryant provided fans with one final show, dropping 60 in his final game and leading an improbable last-minute comeback on his way out. That game and another second overall pick for the upcoming 2016 draft were bittersweet compensation for Laker fans watching their franchise cornerstone retire with no obvious heir. The team remained in shambles.

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Given his fraught relationship with both Russell and the three-point line, Scott was fired after the season and replaced with the highly-sought-after Warriors assistant coach Luke Walton. The Lakers used their second overall pick to draft a lanky wing with elite two-way potential in Brandon Ingram. He created with Randle and Russell a core of young players with complementary skill-sets to develop in Bryant’s absence. Walton, known as a player-friendly coach, was considered (at the time) an excellent choice to execute that development.

Jim Buss, in charge of basketball operations, and Kupchak, then made a pair of very bad decisions. The NBA salary cap was given an unexpectedly large boost in 2016 based on an extremely lucrative television deal just signed by the league. As a result, several players that summer received absurdly large contracts from cash-drunk teams. Two of the worst contracts of the summer though were given out by Buss and Kupchak.

Shortly after the beginning of free agency, apparently resigned to the reality that they still had no significant interest from high-level free agents, they announced the signings of center Timofey Mozgov and wing, Luol Deng, to 4-year contracts worth $64 and $72 million, respectively. Even in the irrationally exuberant summer of 2016, the length and size of the contracts for aging role players were widely mocked across the league.

Buss and Kupchak had shackled the young Laker players to Deng and Mozgov for their formative years, and by overpaying the two veterans so extravagantly had made it essentially impossible for the Lakers to sign a max-level player without moving one of them.

Additionally, as a consequence of the Howard trade years earlier, unless the Lakers draft pick for 2017 fell in the top 3, they would lose their first-round picks for 2017 and 2018. If the young Lakers proved to be good and the team won, their rebuild might be strangled by the loss of draft picks. If the team was bad enough to keep its draft picks, it would probably mean that the young players weren’t as valuable as expected. The Lakers, rival executives began to say more and more loudly, were now just another team.

For part 2, click here.


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