Opinion: Lakers ready for ultimate Kobe Bryant tribute in potential NBA Finals clincher

If the Los Angeles Lakers have their way, they will honor the late Kobe Bryant in a number of ways.

They will beat the Miami Heat in Friday's Game 5 of the NBA Finals to secure the franchise’s 17th league title and first since 2010. They will do so by mimicking Bryant’s competitiveness. And perhaps they will also mirror Bryant’s clutch play by ending the series with a dramatic game-winning shot.

However that plays out, the Lakers will wear a visible reminder on how to embody Bryant’s spirit. They will wear the “Black Mamba” City Edition jerseys that Bryant once collaborated with Nike on the design. For all the concerns the Heat might have about Goran Dragic’s health, LeBron James’ playmaking and Anthony Davis’ defense, Miami might become concerned about this development, too. After all, the Lakers are 4-0 in the playoffs anytime they have worn the Bryant-inspired jerseys.

"Obviously, we're representing him, especially in those jerseys,” Davis said. “It's his jersey, one he created, and any time we put it on, we want to win."

LeBron James and Anthony Davis wearing the Black Mamba jerseys that Kobe Bryant helped design. (Photo: Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports)

The Lakers last won wearing that jersey against the Denver Nuggets in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals. Then, Davis made a game-winning 3-pointer as time expired. As soon as Davis made the shot, he yelled out Bryant’s name.

Afterwards, the Lakers attributed the team’s effort to the franchise’s luminary.

“When we have that uniform on, I think we feel it more than others,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “That's a shot Kobe Bryant would hit.”

Since Bryant died in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26 along with eight others, including his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, the Lakers have honored him in various ways.

Throughout the 2019-20 season, the Lakers have ended practices by huddling up and yelling out, “1, 2, 3 Mamba.” The team's videoboard reads “Leave a Legacy,” a message Bryant followed after winning five NBA titles and becoming the franchise’s all-time leading scorer through 20 seasons. Before and after games, Lakers players have often worn Bryant-related T-shirts.

In a potentially decisive Game 5, the Lakers will wear another Bryant-related item. The jersey will remind them to close out the Finals just the way Bryant would have wanted.

Said Davis: “The entire team thinks about him all the time.”

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