Updated: Apr 15, 2020
written by Daniel Flores
The Lakers’ opening night has become a tradition with my brother and me, but that wasn’t always the case. Attending games did happen, but it was a fantastical feat for me, and about as common as a depressing Scrubs episode guest-starring Brendan Fraser.
So in 2015, we decided enough was enough and committed to attend every home opener from then on out. That 2015 opener gave us an extra incentive to show up: it would be Kobe’s final opening night.
While I haven’t mentioned it yet, I am sure you get the picture.
For many, The Lakers are more than just a basketball team, and it's exemplified for me by my relationship with my brother.
Those close to their older siblings will understand the underlying dynamic: They start as someone you idolize and as an instrumental advisor on how to navigate your relationship with your parents during your childhood, what things are worth getting in trouble for, and what things are not.
Then, when you grow up and become your own person, they still serve on your advice counsel, but also as a friend who is going to be there for life. This important bond I share with my brother is something that wasn’t guaranteed, as I am sure many of you don’t feel the same way about your sibling(s), so what helped us become so close?
From celebrating together when we heard that famous call “Bryant to SHAQ!” to the moment that ESPN Lakers announcer, John Ireland, cited as “the loudest moment Staples Center ever had" during his 60 point finale against the Utah Jazz, the Lakers have always remained an essential and epic part of my life.
Still, the Kobe teams that I hold near and dear to my heart are the ones that featured Kobe and Pau.
The Lakers acquired Pau Gasol from the Memphis Grizzles in February 2008 (holy shit that is 12 years ago). Gasol joined the Lakers on the road while they were playing the New Jersey Nets, who currently reside in Brooklyn, where he showed immediate chemistry with Bryant, a chemistry which would fuel them to a 2008 Finals bid. And even though they ended up losing in their first go on basketball’s biggest stage, they would go on to win the next two NBA titles and get revenge on the hated Boston Celtics.
Gasol, who wrote the forward to Kobe’s book Mamba Mentality, described their relationship as one of growth. The 7-foot Spaniard, came to Los Angeles labeled as a soft player, who was winless in his playoff career. That all changed when he put on the purple and gold, but not just because of the switch of teams, rather the switch of mentality. The person who helped flipped that switch?
While looking back at the good times, people tend to want to gloss over the point of contention.
Gasol couldn’t shake the notion that he could get tough and compete with the league’s best, like Kevin Garnett and the Celtics front line. But the next year, Gasol came back with a vengeance, helping the Lakers secure true 2009 championship with a sheer force of will and determination that weighed on them that entire season and honestly probably till they were able to exact their revenge with a Finals victory over Celtics in 2010.
Kobe asking Gasol for more Black Swan from Pau, by calling him soft to media outlets and by challenging him each and everyday at practice. These acts of tough love allowed Gasol to blossom into the superstar he is, reaching his max potential in the most critical moments during their championship run.
I see a lot of myself in Pau, and I can see how my brother similarly has helped me paved a path forward in my life where I can reach my full potential.
Kobe’s death made me really think deeply about what is important to me — thinking about how he has been teaching me lessons my whole life.
I hope to honor his legacy is to put all my effort into the things and people I love.
Thank you Kobe Bryant
Daniel "Sheb" Flores is the Editor-In-Chief at Faded Morgana and an active civil warrior. Daniel "Sheb" Flores likes The Lakers, Funky music and Workers Unions. He loves to sleep and works as a Patient Transporter at a Hospital in Southern California.