LeBron James On Kobe Bryant: 'A Day Doesn’t Go By When I Don’t Think About Him'
It's been nearly six months since Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna died in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26.
LeBron James said Bryant has been on his mind each of those 116 days.
"A day doesn’t go by when I don’t think about him," James said Monday in a video conference call. "And a day doesn’t go by when our organization does not remember him and think about not only Kob’, but Gigi, Vanessa and the girls."
Hours before Bryant died, he called James to congratulate him for passing him for third on the NBA's all-time scoring list in a game against Philadelphia on Jan. 25. As the team flew home to Los Angeles the following morning, they found out about the crash.
James was devastated and vowed to do everything he could to honor Bryant, writing on Instagram, "It’s my responsibility to put this s--- on my back and keep it going!!"
James got a tattoo on his thigh of a Black Mamba. He choked back tears during the national anthem in his first game after Bryant's death. And he vowed to the 19,000 fans at Staples Center that night -- and millions more around the world -- that he'd continue Bryant's legacy.
James said Monday that when the season resumes at Walt Disney World in Orlando on July 30, the Lakers will be carrying Kobe and Gianna with them.
"They’re a part of this family, just as big as anybody in this organization’s history," James said. "So, we still wear 2-4 and 8 and the No. 2 with pride and with remembrance of how great they were."
Lakers coach Frank Vogel said Bryant's death brought the Lakers even closer together.
"He’s still with us," Vogel said Monday. "Anytime a group like ours goes through something so emotionally deep, I just think it forms bonds. It strengthened our group. You never want something like that to happen, but I do think that’s the effect of something like that."
The Lakers, who are atop the Western Conference with a record of 49-14, are competing for their first championship since 2010, when Bryant led the team to his fifth and final title before retiring in 2016.
Vogel said the Lakers will try to channel Bryant over the next few months.
"We always -- even prior to this even happening -- we wanted to embody what he stood for," Vogel said. "And even more so now with what happened, we want to honor his memory."
Bryant, an 18-time All-Star, two-time Finals MVP and one time regular season MVP in 2008, was the corporeal embodiment of hard work, dedication and heart.
He famously made two free throws after sustaining a torn Achilles' tendon in a game against Golden State in 2013. He had four consecutive games in 2007 in which he scored at least 50 points. He scored 62 points in three quarters in a game against Dallas in 2005. And he had a career-high 81 points in game against Toronto in 2006.
Vogel intends to make sure his players remember that heading into the postseason.
"We’ll refresh our mindset of things that he stood for and what his approach was from a competitive-spirit standpoint," Vogel said. "Come playoff time, that I think will help us in our mission this year."