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Lakers newsletter: Remembering Kobe Bryant

Hi, this is Dan Woike, Lakers beat writer for the Los Angeles Times, here with your Lakers newsletter.

So much of my time this last week was spent thinking about Kobe Bryant and his influence on the NBA — and specifically on the current Lakers roster.

Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, wife Vanessa and daughter Natalia before a UCLA women's basketball game in 2017.
(Associated Press)
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I wrote a pair of stories about it — one chronicling the days before, as LeBron James was chasing down Bryant on the NBA’s all-time scoring list, and another on how the team has honored Bryant in the year since.

After the Lakers won in Chicago, I asked James about how the Lakers still think about Bryant to this day. Here’s what he said:

“Man, it’s a saying that time heals all. And as devastating and as tragic as it was and still is to all of us involved with it, only time. And it takes time. Everyone has their own grieving process. Everyone understands that everyone individually is different, and everyone is going to grieve differently. And how long it takes to come to grips with it is up them and that individual.

“All you can do as a friend or a loved one or anyone in our brotherhood or our family-hood we have here in the Lakers organization is to put our arm around someone when they need it. Us being able to remember him, and us wearing the jerseys in the postseason and have the postseason success we had, as you guys saw with those uniforms. We got a lot of guys who wear the shoes to this day obviously. I’m able to wear the 2-4 on my finger every night. And then when we play in Staples Center, you see that 8-24 in the rafters and be able to live a legacy on. There’s a lot of things that die in this world, but legends never die, and he’s exactly that. So it’s all about representing that.”

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I think that generally captures how the Lakers have processed everything in the last year — a team that’s trying to heal while still trying to pay tribute to someone who meant so much to them.

We saw Marc Gasol get emotional when he declined to talk about Bryant. And reserve guard Quinn Cook politely declined our interview request through a team official because the feelings are still too raw.

It was a hard week for them, a week that will undoubtedly be tougher with the team in Philadelphia on Wednesday night — the town they were in the night before Bryant’s helicopter accident.

But for the Lakers’ stars, people like James and Anthony Davis, it was clear how much they appreciated the impact Bryant had on them and so many others.

“From soccer to football to players overseas to people who don’t even play sports, they’re always talking about the Mamba mentality, I didn’t know how impactful he was worldwide,” Davis said. “When people pass, people usually come up with all these things about how great he was and he inspired me and such and such, but I think that he really inspired so many people. And that’s why so many people feel the pain that the basketball community felt last year. And they’re still feeling it.

“So as we approach his one-year anniversary, it saddens our hearts to actually come to the realization that he’s gone. I know I still have trouble with it, you still just can’t believe it, especially when you’re really close to him, and I think that just playing back everything on that day and then you fast forward to a year later to where we’re going back to Philly on almost the same exact day. It’s just crazy to really come to the realization that he’s gone ... I just didn’t realize how many people he impacted worldwide that’s outside the basketball community.”

The texters have spoken

A big thanks to everyone who came to hang out with me, J.A. Adande and Howard Beck last week for Lakers-Bucks. The watch-a-long party went great and we’re going to do it again very soon.

We invited Full-Court Text subscribers (who can sign up online) to predict if and when the Lakers would lost their first road game this season.

More than half of the respondents picked the game against Philadelphia on Wednesday. (Boston came in second).

I thought Cleveland would be a tough game (it was), but James was just too good — his massive fourth quarter ignited by a Cleveland executive who enjoyed a missed shot by James at the end of the third a little too much.

“He was really excited about me missing that shot,” James said with a laugh. “A little bit more extra than I would have liked. But he’s got to root for his team obviously. And he was, he showcased that. So I knew I had another quarter, and the fourth quarter’s my favorite.

Song of the week

"Trouble" by TV on the Radio

“Trouble” by TV on the Radio

People all around the NBA were crushed to learn that our friend and colleague Sekou Smith died on Tuesday from COVID-19. Shaun Powell wrote a beautiful tribute on NBA.com.

This song from TV on the Radio is kind of my go-to when things are rough — and God knows thing have been rough a lot of the last 12 months. If you’re having a bad day, I hope it helps.

Don’t forget to tell the people closest to you how much you care. Until next time …

In case you missed it

Reflecting on Kobe’s death: Our complete coverage

Until next time...

As always, pass along your thoughts to me at daniel.woike@latimes.com, and please consider subscribing if you like our work!


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