Updated: Feb 5
Photo by Bruce Ely
The world is still in shock following the tragic death of Kobe Bryant last Sunday. But in the last week since the accident, Bryant’s former teammates and friends have started to reminisce and share stories about his life. One of those comes from Lou Williams.
On Jan. 27, Williams tweeted in response to a story from Nick Young, “We got blew out in Portland. He took everybody Kobe’s and said they couldn’t wear it cause we was soft.”
Williams went on to share more details of the story. The Lakers lost badly to the Blazers. After the game was over, Bryant told his teammates they were too “soft” to wear his Nike Kobe sneakers. He took them away and tossed them in the trash.
Los Angeles and Portland have a rich history of rivalry. Especially since Bryant joined the team in 1996. In 2000 the Lakers, led by Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant, came back from a 15 point deficit to beat the Blazers in game 7. That year they went on to win Bryant’s first championship, his first of 5 with the Lakers. But Portland held their own. “To us, they look like a playoff team every time we come up here,” Bryant told the Associate Press back in 2010. “They’re extremely well coached, Brandon Roy is a fantastic player and they have great complementary players around him. They’re very good.” But despite his positive words, Portland and Los Angeles have remained at odds.
It seemed only fitting that the Lakers first game back after the traumatic loss of Bryant would be against the Blazers. Bryant’s “Mamba Mentality” has been apparent in how the Blazers have been playing. Especially Damian Lillard who has been on a record breaking streak. Bryant probably wouldn’t be surprised by Lillard’s current streak if he was here to see it. Bryant played against Lillard in his NBA debut game in 2012, and he had some high praise for Lillard afterwards. “That boy is serious man, he’s serious. And he’s not afraid of anything. You know, he has the whole package.”
Lillard has clearly taken those words to heart. He’s known to be a hard worker and an incredible player. He’s following in Kobe’s footsteps and becoming one of the best players to ever play the game.
In Friday night’s match up against the Lakers, no one could possibly predict what would happen. Both teams played hard from the beginning, which wasn’t surprising considering the strong emotions surrounding the players. The emotions were at an all time high from the beautiful tributes made before the game. Both players and fans were breaking down in tears.
But despite the heavy emotion, both teams left it all on the court. And in true Mamba mentality form, Lillard had another tremendous night, leading the Blazers to a 119-127 victory over the Lakers. Portland won by 8 points, a number so significant on this night.
When asked if he felt bad trying to win on such an emotional night, Lillard’s response was exactly what we have all been thinking. “Nobody is going to win tonight. Kobe is gone, his family isn’t going to get him back, and this is just basketball.”
Prior to the game, Lillard told reporters, “When we get to Staples it’s going to maybe set in a little bit harder because that’s Kobe’s house. It’s gonna be another hard game.” And It was. But after years of back and forth rivalry, there could be no better team to have the honor of walking through loss and grief hand in hand with the Lakers. There could be no better way to honor Kobe Bryant than a well played, heartfelt game of basketball. The game he loved. Against a team he loved to hate.
Lillard’s Mamba mentality continued into Saturday night’s game against the Utah Jazz. He went into the game on fire with an incredible streak that started on January 20th, against the Golden State Warriors. In the last 6 games, including Saturday’s game, Lillard is averaging MVP numbers with 48.8 points, 10.1 assists and 7.2 rebounds! On Saturday night in a back to back that was full of emotion, Lillard continued his record breaking streak and became the first player in NBA history to average more than 45 points and 10 assists in a 6 game span. On Tuesday they look to extend this four game win streak as they take on the Nuggets.
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