I can’t recall the last time I was this invested in NBA basketball.
I have been a casual fan of the sport for years. I was fortunate enough to follow the career of Kobe Bryant during his second championship run in 2009 and 2010. Those back-to-back championships cemented his legacy for me. He became more of an inspiration than he already was.
Bryant faced the task of completely restarting after Shaquille O’Neal left the Los Angeles Lakers in 2004. Many people believed he might never win a championship again. As he did so often during his career, Bryant proved everyone wrong.
I mention this because Bryant’s death in January has tragically overshadowed the NBA this season.
On Jan. 26, Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven other people were killed in a helicopter crash. Many basketball fans thought there was no way the year could get worse. However, the untimely loss of one of the greatest basketball players of all time foreshadowed how bad 2020 would be.
As COVID-19 spread around the globe, sports were cancelled and we were confined to our homes. Sports have always been a sanctuary. That comfort was stolen away from millions of fans. Everyone had to adapt.
I was delighted when the NBA announced it would return to finish the season. Not only would we be able to see the season completed, but we also may witness a storybook ending that only Lebron James the Lakers can provide. Maybe there would be a shining moment in a year that has been plagued by chaos and negativity.
Ever since Bryant’s death, James has been vocal about what it would mean to win another championship in honour of the “Black Mamba,” as Bryant is known. It seems like there is no stopping the Lakers from doing everything in their power to honour the greatest Laker of all time.
Bryant’s final Instagram photo, posted the day before he died, was of him and James, who had just passed him on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. He captioned the picture, “Keep growing the game and charting the path for the next.”
To win a championship in Bryant’s honour less than a year after his death could be a story that motivates a lot of people during the hard times we are currently facing.
Bryant symbolized many things – will-power, determination and hard work. He demonstrated who you can become when you are the hardest worker in the room. He taught us the will to win will take anyone wherever they try to go.
If the Lakers do win a championship this year, it will show people what can be accomplished when everything comes crashing down, but you keep your head up and put everything on the line.