While LeBron James may seem like a real-life superhero on the basketball court, the Los Angeles Lakers star is still a human. For all his success, he still carries some regrets and emotional burdens with him. Heading into the NBA’s Orlando bubble, King James still hasn’t forgotten about the tragic death of Kobe Bryant.
Although it’s been several months since Bryant and his daughter died in a helicopter crash, LeBron James hasn’t forgotten the Lakers legend. During his warmup games in the bubble, he’s still paying tribute to Kobe.
LeBron James and the Lakers are having a strong 2019-20 campaign
It goes without saying that the 2019-20 NBA season has been far from conventional. That reality, however, can’t change LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers’ success.
After six-straight seasons without postseason basketball, this year’s Lakers have turned things around in a massive way. Frank Vogel has his charges working hard at both ends of the floor; the acquisition of Anthony Davis has also paid off in spades. When the NBA placed all games on hold, the Lakers were sitting atop the Western Conference and looking like a favorite to win the NBA title.
A large part of their success, though, still stems directly from LeBron James. While he’s no longer a young man, King James is still capable of playing with the best of them. Although his scoring numbers have slightly decreased, the forward is dishing out more dimes than ever; he was averaging 25.7 and 10.6 assists per outing before the season went on hiatus.
LeBron James is still honoring Kobe Bryant in the NBA bubble
Earlier this year, the entire sports world was shaken by the tragic death of Kobe Bryant. That fateful helicopter crash, however, hit even closer to home for LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers.
While Kobe’s connection to the Lakers organization is obvious, he and LeBron also formed a bond over the years. The two men became close friends, bonding over the parallel careers. In fact, Bryant’s last tweet congratulated James on passing him in the league’s all-time scoring list.
After the Lakers learned of Bryant’s death, James led his teammates in prayer; he also paid tribute to the Lakers’ legend during a pregame tribute at the Staples Center. While six months have passed and the entire league has relocated to Walt Disney World, LeBron hasn’t forgotten what happened in January.
In a recent Orlando scrimmage, James sported a finger band with Bryant’s number 24 stitched into it. ESPN’s Dave McMenamin also noted that LeBron was wearing several bracelets at practice; of them was made of purple beads and featured the numbers 8 and 24.
The Lakers would love to cap off the campaign with an NBA title, even if they’re not winning it for Kobe
It goes without saying that the Los Angeles Lakers don’t need to win the NBA championship to honor Kobe Bryant; that’s unfair to the players and makes them complicit in a larger failing if they can’t win the title. With that being said, though, the club is in pretty good shape entering the Orlando Bubble.
As mentioned above, LeBron James is still going strong at age 35. Anthony Davis is also posting an MVP-quality season in his own right. While the road to the Larry O’Brien Trophy won’t be easy—the Lakers will presumably have to face the Clippers to even escape the Western Conference, and the Bucks should be waiting in the NBA Finals—Kings James is favored to claim the crown. For reference, 538 gives the Lakers a 46% chance of making the finals and a 32% chance of winning the whole thing.
Once again, it’s not fair to posit the Lakers’ playoff performance as their final tribute to Kobe Bryant. Even with that caveat, though, LeBron James would love to win this one for his late friend.
Stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference