Although the entire Los Angeles Lakers organization is still in extreme mourning following Kobe Bryant’s death, it did take a small step back to normality on Tuesday.
Players and coaches met at the team’s practice facility for a light workout, which was followed by a luncheon.
During the luncheon, LeBron James shared a story of how Bryant ran right through Pau Gasol when all three were teammates on the 2008 Olympic team. James then transitioned into talking about his relationship with Bryant that summer.
“One of the highlights was when LeBron James, sources said, took the room back to the 2008 Beijing Olympics gold-medal game when he and Bryant teamed up on Team USA against Spain, featuring Bryant’s Lakers teammate Pau Gasol,” wrote Dave McMenamin of ESPN.
“James recalled in amazement the moment, just a few possessions into the game, when Bryant ‘blew up’ Gasol when Gasol was setting a screen — he just ran straight through him, putting Gasol on the hardwood.
“James said his reaction at the time was along the lines of, ‘Oh, wow, you’re going to have to play with this guy next season …’
“That’s when the Lakers’ director of sports performance, Dr. Judy Seto, chimed in to explain that the over-the-top contact from Bryant was all calculated. Seto, who traveled with Bryant to the Olympics as his physical therapist and worked in a similar capacity for the Lakers back then, explained how L.A. was just months removed from an NBA Finals loss to the Boston Celtics, and Gasol was labeled ‘soft’ because of mediocre play with the title on the line.
“By mowing down Gasol, Seto explained, Bryant wasn’t just trying to get in Gasol’s head for the medal game, he was planting the seed for Gasol to obsess over what he needed to improve on for the upcoming season so that L.A. could win it all, which it did.
“To bring the point home further, Bryant hung his gold medal in Gasol’s locker at the start of training camp the following fall.
“Of course, the story behind the story that James shared, according to league sources, was that James and Bryant were battling for alpha dog status not only on that team but for that perch atop the entire league. And now, years later, it is James filling in for Bryant to occupy that position for the franchise.”
The Lakers were scheduled to face the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday evening in what was expected to be a big Western Conference showdown. Instead, the NBA decided to postpone the contest.