For someone who professed he hadn’t written anything out ahead of time, Kobe Bryant spoke at Jerry Buss’ memorial Thursday at the Nokia Theatre with a few pretty clear messages.
One, Bryant admitted skepticism on the Lakers re-hiring Phil Jackson in 2005 a year after he released a tell-all book that described him as “uncoachable.” In retrospect, Bryant values Buss for convincing him otherwise since it resulted in two more championships.
Secondly, Bryant hoped the surrounding backdrop regarding Buss’ memorial brought proper perspective to the current roster as they try digging back into playoff contention.
“I encourage all of you – me included – to look around the room and look at the greatness of one man’s vision,” Bryant said. “The players that are here, the coaches that are here, we all have one thing in common and it’s that we all believed in Dr. Jerry Buss. For us to look around this room and understand that we’re playing for something bigger than ourselves, bigger than a single season, we are playing for the memory of a great man, Dr. Jerry Buss.”
The reasoning remains pretty simple.
Buss, 80, owned the Lakers since 1979 when he purchased the team along with the Forum, the NHL’s Kings and a 13,000-acre ranch in Kern County for $67.5 million from Jack Kent Cooke. Since then, the Lakers have become one of the sport’s top franchises, winning 10 of their 16 NBA championships under Buss’ watch. That’s only one shy of the Lakers’ rival, the Boston Celtics.
“A lot of guys feel that way anyway,” Lakers center Dwight Howard said. “It wasn’t nothing new. We’ve all been talking about doing something special and changing what’s been going on.”
Ever since Buss’ passing Monday from an unspecified form of cancer that affected his kidneys, the Lakers invoked his memories in various ways.
Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak addressed the team about Buss and what he meant to the franchise. The Lakers began wearing “JB” patches on their jerseys. The Lakers honored him in a pre-game tribute, which then led helped spark the Lakers to a 113-99 win Wednesday over the Celtics.
Lakers guard Steve Nash called the rallying cry “a nice story” before cautioning, “you have to be self motivating.
“I’d like to believe that regardless of Dr. Buss passing that we’d have the toughness in ourselves to rally,” Nash said. “It’s been obviously a tough year, trying and disappointing. But we made some progress and we have to continue to make progress the rest of the way. It would be a beautiful thing to do it for Dr. Buss. But I’d like to think we have the toughness to find it in ourselves regardless.”
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