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Los Angeles Lakers owner Jeanie Buss posted a heartfelt Instagram message Thursday following Kobe Bryant’s death in a helicopter crash Sunday that also killed eight others, including his daughter Gianna, in Calabasas, California.
Buss paid tribute to Bryant by calling him a member of the “family” who helped her find the “inspiration and strength [she] was searching for” following the death of her father, Jerry Buss, in 2013:
“Kobe, I don’t know how to express what you mean to me, my family and the Los Angeles Lakers. My father loved you like a son, which makes us family. When you invited me to lunch shortly after my father passed away, I was struggling to find motivation and purpose. Kobe, you brought Gianna with you to spend some time with me. You explained that you wanted to show her that women can be leaders in the NBA, just like the men. At first, it seemed like an action of a devoted father setting an example for his daughter. But in actualityand I am positively sure you knew EXACTLY what you were doingwhat you did was give me the inspiration and strength I was searching for. I reflect on that day often and it makes me smile and it makes me strong. I call on that memory whenever I feel down and need a bit of courage.
“For everything you did on the court that filled me with so much joy and love, for all the lives you changed through basketball itself, it was that day with Gigi that reignited my drive and determination.
“Vanessa, Natalia, Bianka, and CapriI am so sorry for your loss. We are grateful to have you in our lives and we will always be here for you. To the families that also lost loved ones on Sunday, the entire Laker family mourns with you. Laker Nationwe are one family grieving the loss of people we all loved dearly. We will mourn together, cry together but we will also heal together, love together and win TOGETHER. We love you.”
Bryant spent his entire 20-year NBA career with the Lakers, but that almost wasn’t the case.
The legendary shooting guard requested a trade in 2007 during a lull between L.A.’s time in championship contention after winning three straight titles from 2000 to 2002.
A discussion with Jerry Buss changed his entire outlook, as Bryant said after Buss’ death in 2013:
“I had to make a choice and decision in believing in him. That wasn’t hard to do once I took a step back and looked at everything that he’s accomplished and had a chance to sit down with him. He talked to me about what his vision was and the vision for rebuilding this team quickly. It was easy for me. I was a Laker fan growing up. I saw how many championships he was able to win and how many times he was able to rebuild. That was a pretty easy call for me.”
The Lakers proceeded to win back-to-back championships in 2009 and 2010.
Although Bryant retired in 2016, he remained a confidant of Jeanie Buss and delivered a frank message to her in 2018 about the franchise’s pursuit of LeBron James, per Jerry Bembry of The Undefeated:
“I’ll tell you, when Jeanie Buss came to me and said, ‘I really want to go after [LeBron],’ I said, ‘Jeanie, he’s not coming here until you clean up this s here.’ The last thing LeBron wants to do is come to an organization that has a lot of infighting, a lot of the stuff going on. I said, ‘Jeanie, it’s time for you to take ownership of this franchise. He’s not going to come if you don’t.'”
The Lakers convinced James to join the organization. Paired with this past offseason’s addition of Anthony Davis, it has vaulted the team back into the championship conversation. The Lakers are the top team in the Western Conference with a 36-10 record.
Bryant had a significant connection with the Buss family for over two decades, and it’s clear based on Jeanie’s message that his impact will continue to be felt moving forward.
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