LeBron James Wears Kobe Bryant Tribute Shirt Before Winning Game 4 of NBA Finals
After claiming their third victory over the Miami Heat, the Lakers are a single win away from securing an NBA title, the 17th in franchise history.
Throughout their playoff run, the Lakers have found ways to honor Bryant — who died in a helicopter crash in January — such as by wearing special edition "Black Mamba" uniforms or patches in tribute to him and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, who also died in the crash.
The memory of the longtime Lakers star has remained present with the team, and before the fourth game of the NBA Finals in Orlando on Tuesday, James walked to the locker room wearing a shirt featuring a picture of Bryant with the words, "More than ever with love, 1978-2020."
The Lakers posted a picture of James in the shirt to Instagram, including the caption, "Mamba Mentality," Bryant's famous mantra.
Los Angeles went on to beat Miami 102-96, giving them a 3-1 lead in the Finals.
Though they never faced each other in the championship round, Bryant and James were viewed as friendly rivals throughout their careers.
Bryant, along with Shaquille O'Neal, led the Lakers to three consecutive championships in the early 2000s, followed later by back-to-back titles in 2009 and 2010. James won two championships with the Miami Heat in 2012 and 2013, and led the Cleveland Cavaliers to a title over the heavily favored Golden State Warriors in 2016 — the year Bryant retired from the NBA.
James recently opened up about his regrets with Bryant, namely how the two never got the chance to enjoy a meal together once James joined the Lakers in 2018.
"Of course, you think there’s going to be time for us to get together and I understand that there are regrets in life, but I definitely wish I had that moment with him," James told Yahoo Sports.
"I do remember when I decided to come here, he sent me a text right away and said, ‘Welcome, brother. Welcome to the family,' " the 35-year-old added. "That was a special moment because at the time, Laker faithful wasn’t [fully in on me]. A lot of people were saying, ‘Well, we might not want LeBron at this point in his career,’ and, ‘Is he right? Is he going to get us back [to the Finals]?’"
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Game 5 of the NBA Finals is set for Friday and will air on ABC at 9 p.m. EST.