It was a moment to be proud. Not just for LeBron James and his LA Lakers. But it was a moment for the family of Kobe Bryant to cherish.
James and Anthony Davis delivered a fearsome one-two punch for the Lakers on Friday, sparking more memories of Lakers legends Shaquille O’Neal and the late Kobe Bryant.
James and Davis combined for 65 points in the Lakers’ 124-114 victory over the Heat, which put Los Angeles halfway to victory in the best-of-seven championship series. Afterwards, James sent a message to the Bryant family, knowing just how much it meant: “I hope you are proud.”
They’re the first Lakers duo to score 60 points in a Finals game since O’Neal and Bryant achieved the feat in 2002 — when they claimed a third straight title.
After O’Neal departed the Lakers — his relationship with Bryant famously soured — Bryant won two more titles with the Lakers in 2009 and 2010.
James, playing in his 10th title series and with championships with Miami and Cleveland on his resume, recalled watching the Kobe-Shaq pairing when he was a high school star.
“Obviously we knew the force that Shaq brought to the table, but the elegance and force that Kobe played with, as well,” James said. “They were very dominant in what they did on the floor, on both sides of the floor. So to be in the conversation with those two guys, myself and AD — is just very humbling, because I know I grew up watching those guys.”
Any memory of Bryant has a special resonance for the Lakers this year. The club icon died in a January helicopter crash that also claimed the life of his 13-year-old daughter and seven other people.
The Lakers wore their Bryant-inspired Black Mamba kit on Friday and remained unbeaten in four playoff games when wearing it.
James said that his and Davis’s roles in the team can’t be precisely compared to those of Shaq and Kobe.
“But I guess all four of us, we have a winning mentality,” he said.
Davis agreed that any likeness was more to do with attitude than style of play.
“They both had a competitive spirit with themselves to will their teams to win,” said Davis, who is in the championship series for the first time in his career.
“I think me and Bron are the same way. We are two guys who want to win no matter the circumstance. We both want to make sure that we do whatever it takes to help our team win.”