LeBron James is honoring Kobe Bryant after making NBA history. On Saturday, James became only the fourth player in the history of professional basketball to make it to the NBA finals 10 times.
After the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Denver Nuggets in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals on Saturday, James spoke with reporters about what the accomplishment meant to him, and paid tribute Bryant — his late friend and Lakers legend.
“We’re gonna enjoy tonight, as we should because this is not promised… But we understand that we got bigger fish to fry,” James said of the team’s victory.
As for his own impressive accomplishment of making to his 10th NBA finals — feat achieved only by icons Bill Russell, Sam Jones and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar — James said the achievement “don’t mean s**t unless I get it done,” and help the Lakers bring home the championship.
Saturday’s win also marks the first time the Lakers have made it to the NBA finals since 2010, when Bryant lead the team to the championship against the Boston Celtics.
Reflecting on that milestone, and the late Bryant’s indelible mark on the sport and the team, James opened up about the impact Bryant’s career.
“Every time you put on purple and gold, you think about his legacy and what he meant to this franchise for 20-plus years,” James said, explaining that he is reminded of Bryant’s commitment and his determination all the time.
“Just that drive to always want to be victorious. It stops you from sleeping,” James added. “You sacrifice a lot of things, you sacrifice your family at times, because you’re so driven to be so great that other things fall by the wayside at times.”
“I understand that,” he added. “I’m one of the few that can understand the mindset that he played in.”
James said of his own legacy that, when his career comes to an end, he hopes he was a source of inspiration and has earned respect from his fellow players.
“At the end of my career, I just hope that I’ve inspired enough people to play the right way, and have that respect from my teammates, that respect from all the opponents that I played against, all the teams that I played against and the organizations that I played for,” James said.
The Lakers will face off in the NBA finals against either the Miami Heat or the Celtics, who are still duking it out in the Eastern Conference Finals.
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