LeBron, Lakers put on show for Kobe in win
NBA.com Global on Nov 19, 2019 07:22 AM
LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 17: LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers high fives NBA Legend Kobe Bryant during a game between the Los Angeles Lakers and Atlanta Hawks on November 17, 2019 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images)
NBA.com staff report
Practically every time Kobe Bryant stepped on the Staples Center court in his playing career, he thrilled Los Angeles Lakers fans. The same held true on Sunday night (Monday, PHL time) with Bryant sitting courtside to watch his old team blast past the Atlanta Hawks.
Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna Maria "Gigi" Bryant, watched as LeBron James powered the Lakers' 122-101 romp that was never even that close.
In a first quarter full of highlights, James’ biggest play provided his first points. After JaVale McGee blocked Jabari Parker’s shot, James grabbed the ball, passed to Danny Green and took the return pass for a slam dunk that brought the crowd to its feet two minutes in.
James added two layups, a 3-point shot and a three-point play to help propel the Lakers to their 25-point lead with 3:17 still to play in the opening quarter.
“I'm just trying to put on a show for him and give him a reason to be like, ‘OK, we might come to another game,’“ James said.
The 34-year-old James said it was “fantastic” to play in front of Bryant, who helped the Lakers win five NBA titles during his 20-year career.
“I know he came to a game last year,” James said. “Just having him in the building, knowing what he did to this franchise, and for me and my teammates what it means to be a part of Laker Nation, the Laker family, it's a beautiful thing. I was one of the kids who had the chance to come out straight out of high school. He did it and I was just watching him. It's just so surreal for me, a kid from Akron to be able to have a guy like Kobe take time out of his day. Even at this point in my career it's still special.”
Per ESPN's Dave McMenamin, Hawks star Trae Young was delighted to hear that Gigi Bryant was there to watch him.
"It was crazy because he told me his daughter is a huge fan of mine, and I'm one of her favorite players," Young said. "It's kind of crazy because I'll be watching her highlights, too. They pop up on my timeline."
Bryant was shown on the big screen with 4:25 left in the first half and rose to acknowledge a standing ovation. That was just one of many instances in which the crowd revered having him in the building. The first such instance came in the first quarter when James shook hands with Bryant and then nailed a 3-pointer to give the Lakers a 24-5 lead.
When Bryant snapped photos of Gigi with comedian Kevin Hart and Quavo and Offset from the hip-hop group Migos, the crowd in turn took photos of Bryant taking photos and cheered.
Anthony Davis told reporters after the game that he was excited to have Bryant in the building for Sunday's (Monday, PHL time) game.
"I mean, it's great," Davis said. "I never thought I'd be playing here in such an iconic franchise and have the opportunity to do something great here. Obviously, it's going to be nothing compared to what Kobe's done here, but just trying to write my own story and take it game by game, year by year and just keep building."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.