LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — It has been one year since a helicopter crash took the lives of Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others.
His death caused millions to mourn around the world, but it inspired a championship run for his beloved former team.
The purple and gold raised another Larry O’Brien trophy and they stuck true to their mission: win it for Kobe.
This past season was unprecedented in so many ways, but the Los Angeles Lakers won a 17th title tying them with their rival Boston Celtics for most in league history.
2020 was full of challenges for the purple and gold.
Many people considered the team a favorite to win it all with the addition of forward Anthony Davis.
But in the middle of the season, a tragedy rocked the Lakers family: the deaths of Bryant and his daughter.
They died in a helicopter crash in Southern California on Jan. 26, 2020.
“As I look around this arena, we are all grieving, we are all hurt, we are all heartbroken,” said Lakers forward LeBron James during a tribute for the Bryants.
The Lakers would take some time off, as the team and the franchise mourned this loss.
The number of Lakers fans grew exponentially, and Kobe chants could be heard throughout Los Angeles and other cities.
“We celebrate the kid who came here at 18 years of age, retired at 38 and became the best dad that we have seen in the last three years,” said James.
For the team, winning the title for the Bryant family became a battle cry for the season.
“For me, it was just playing as hard as I can, knowing that’s what he would want me to do and try my best and see if I can make him proud,” said Davis.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit the sports world, pausing the season in March.
The season resumed inside the bubble in late July, and the Lakers mission for another title for Kobe Bryant rekindled.
They rolled through the Western Conference in the playoffs.
The Mamba Jerseys played a big factor during the playoff run, as the Lakers only lost once in those jerseys.
They went on to beat the Miami Heat 4-2 in the finals.
“Ever since the tragedy, all we wanted to do is do it for him, and we didn’t let him down,” said Davis. “I know he is looking down on us, proud of us. I know Vanessa is proud of us. I know the organization is proud of us. It means a lot to us.”
ALL MEMORIES OF MAMBA STORIES
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- Las Vegas athletes inspired by Kobe's 'mamba mentality’
- Las Vegas basketball coach talks about day Kobe Bryant killed in helicopter crash
- Honoring the nine victims in last year's deadly crash that also killed Kobe Bryant
- NTSB to hold hearing on Kobe Bryant helicopter crash investigation
- From tragedy to triumph, Lakers win NBA Finals in 2020