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For Kobe: These NBA Finals Are Very Much With Bryant In Mind

FILE - In this Friday, Sept. 18, 2020, file photo, Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis smiles as he stands on the court during the second half an NBA conference final playoff basketball game against the Denver Nuggets in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The jerseys will be hanging in their lockers when the Los Angeles Lakers arrive for Game 2 of the NBA Finals on Friday night, Oct. 2. Black jerseys, trimmed in gold, a snakeskin print on the exterior to make it further unique.T hey are the Black Mamba jerseys. Designed by Kobe Bryant  and now worn for Kobe Bryant.
We never want to lose in these jerseys, Lakers forward Anthony Davis said. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File)

FILE - In this Friday, Sept. 18, 2020, file photo, Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis smiles as he stands on the court during the second half an NBA conference final playoff basketball game against the Denver Nuggets in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The jerseys will be hanging in their lockers when the Los Angeles Lakers arrive for Game 2 of the NBA Finals on Friday night, Oct. 2. Black jerseys, trimmed in gold, a snakeskin print on the exterior to make it further unique.T hey are the Black Mamba jerseys. Designed by Kobe Bryant and now worn for Kobe Bryant. We never want to lose in these jerseys, Lakers forward Anthony Davis said. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File)

The jerseys will be hanging in their lockers when the Los Angeles Lakers arrive for Game 2 of the NBA Finals on Friday night. Black jerseys, trimmed in gold, a snakeskin print on the exterior to make it further unique.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla.: The jerseys will be hanging in their lockers when the Los Angeles Lakers arrive for Game 2 of the NBA Finals on Friday night. Black jerseys, trimmed in gold, a snakeskin print on the exterior to make it further unique.

They are the Black Mamba jerseys.

Designed by Kobe Bryant and now worn for Kobe Bryant.

We never want to lose in these jerseys, Lakers forward Anthony Davis said.

Nobody wants to lose in any jersey, of course, but the Lakers would feel like theyre letting Bryant down if they happened to fall short in that uniform. The tribute jersey is just one of many ways that Bryants fingerprints are all over these NBA Finals between the Lakers and Miami Heat. It’s the leagues first title series since Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others were killed in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26.

Its no secret: This playoff run by the Lakers is with Bryant constantly in mind.

Theyve got something special that they want to do. You cant deny that, Heat center Bam Adebayo said. Its not shocking that he passes away and that becomes their motivation to win the NBA championship and be in the finals. Its not weird at all. I want to win and do it for Kobe too … so I understand.

Bryant is the player that Adebayo grew up idolizing. His favorite souvenir from All-Star weekend wasnt his skills competition championship trophy, but the Bryant jersey that all the players received. His favorite sneakers arent just the Kobe 5s but the purple and gold Kobe 5s, Lakers colors. So, he understands why this Lakers team is motivated to win in Bryants memory.

It still doesnt feel real to this day, Adebayo said. But you see the effect that he had on the world.

Many of the Lakers wear Bryants signature sneakers for games, and assistant coach Jason Kidd often wears them as well. At least four members of the Heat — Adebayo, Andre Iguodala, Solomon Hill and Jae Crowder — typically wear Kobe sneakers as well.

Bryant won five titles with the Lakers, the last of those coming in 2010. Until now, the Lakers hadnt been back to the finals since. Now, theyre three wins away from a 17th championship in franchise history, which would tie the Boston Celtics for the most ever.

Bryant would have loved that, of course.

Its hard not to think about him, whether youre a part of this organization or not, Lakers guard Danny Green said. Hes always going to impact the game and have a presence, especially for us.

More than eight months have passed since Bryants death. The Lakers tributes have not faded or slowed down in that time.

The Lakers break huddles by yelling one, two, three, Mamba! A patch with the initials KB adorns some of their jerseys now, a 2″ for Gianna Bryant is affixed to some others. A Kobe Bryant credo Leave a Legacy has become the teams marketing slogan and rallying cry for these playoffs. He helped Nike design the jerseys about three years ago, coming up with the snakeskin-texture idea himself, the obvious nod to his Mamba nickname.

The Lakers are 3-0 in those jerseys so far in these playoffs, including a win over Portland on Aug. 24 8/24, the two numbers that Bryant wore in his career with the purple and gold.

The score at one point that night was Lakers 24, Blazers 8.

When I looked up there and saw 24-8, I was like, OK, hes here in the building, Lakers forward LeBron James said.

The postgame routine in the NBA’s season-restart bubble at Walt Disney World is different than what it was before the pandemic struck. There are no showers at the arena, so players leave the floor, change out of their uniform into usually a T-shirt and shorts, then head back to their hotel to get cleaned up.

That is, except on that night in the Mamba jerseys against the Blazers. Davis didnt want to take his jersey off that night. And when Davis hit a game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals against Denver, the Lakers just happened to be in the Mamba jersey.

Hes a guy that especially in this organization well always think of, Green said. Not just myself and my teammates, but everybody throughout the league. Any time they step on the floor, they represent the guys that came before us, and he was one of those pioneers that was amazingly great in everything he did on and off the floor.

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