'This is bigger than us' - LeBron and Lakers dedicate NBA title to Kobe Bryant
"As close as we could possibly be, already, that brought us closer."
The Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Miami Heat 106-93 to win Game 6, at Buena Vista, Florida on Sunday night, to clinch the 17th NBA title in the history of the franchise. It was an emotional night for many at the Lakers as it came months after the tragic death of Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna.
The Heat had rallied to win Game 5, on Friday, but looked gassed out as LeBron James and Anthony Davis - with a little help from Rajon Rondo, Alex Caruso and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope - upped the ante and put the game out of sight by half-time.
James set an NBA Playoff record in Game 6 by appearing in his 260th post-season game. After his epic Friday night battle with the Heat's Jimmy Butler, James showed he had plenty left to give as he top scored with 28 for his side while recording yet another triple-double.
During the breaks in play, the Lakers would gather for huddles before breaking with the call, 'One, two, three, Mamba!' That was done with Bryant, who was often referred to as Black Mamba, in mind.
Back in January, Bryant and his daughter were killed in a helicopter crash in L.A that also claimed the lives of seven other people on board. Bryant won five NBA titles with the Lakers and is the only player in the history of the franchise to have two jersey numbers [8 and 24] retired.
James, during his time with Cleveland Cavaliers and Miami Heat, had been an on-court rival of Bryant's for a number of years, but the pair certainly did respect each other and were in contact several times after Bryant retired. Speaking after claiming his fourth NBA title, and first as a Laker, James spoke about how Bryant's passing had spurred the team on:
"We got as close as you possibly can be, when that moment happened. It brought the whole basketball world close as well, but when you're internal and it hits home, it just means that much more and we locked in from that very moment and said, 'This is bigger than us.'"
Davis, who was on the USA's Olympics team with Bryant at London 2012, referred to Bryant as a 'big brother' to him and one of the main reasons he moved from the New Orleans Pelicans to L.A.
"Ever since the tragedy, we wanted to do it for him, and we didn’t want to let him down," he said.
"I know he’s looking down on us and proud of us, I know Vanessa [Bryant’s wife] is proud of us, the organisation is proud of us. It means a lot to us. He was a big brother to all of us and we did this for him."
James and Davis will be looking forward to a long break after three months in the Disney World bubble in Florida, but both men acknowledge there are more titles there for the taking. On his partnership with Davis, James said, "The first thing I think about is the respect, the no ego, the challenging each other.
"We want each other to be better than actually ourselves. I want AD to be better than me. AD want me to be better than him. Every single night, every single day. And we challenge ourselves. I think that's a part of it."