The Lakers celebrated their 17th championship win in franchise history and 12th crown in the City of Los Angeles this past Sunday.
Crowds immediately gathered outside the Staples Center, the usual home of the purple and gold, to celebrate the historic win. This year, however, teams competed for 96 days inside the NBA “bubble” in Orlando, Fla.
One extra storyline on the minds of all basketball fans was the #forkobe movement.
Kobe and Gianna Bryant’s death – along with Orange Coach College baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife Keri and daughter Alyssa Altobelli – was a tragedy felt throughout a multitude of communities. Kobe’s passing always served as motivation for the Lakers down the stretch. The narrative of winning for Kobe was sought out until the very end.
The contributions that Altobelli and Bryant gave to their sports respectively will almost certainly be unmatched.
Bryant was a five-time NBA champion, 18-time All-Star, 4-time All-Star Game MVP, and NBA Most Valuable Player recipient in 2008. Bryant’s No. 8 and 24 jerseys were both retired by the Lakers, a feat never accomplished by any player in the NBA.
As head coach of the OCC Pirates, Altobelli won four state championships in a ten-year span. After his championship run in 2019, Altobelli received the Coach of the Year award for the Pacific Association Division, also picking up his 700th career win – a school record.
Meeting through their daughters, Altobelli and Bryant formed a relationship through the common ground of being elite competitors. Bryant even made a visit to the Pirates’ facility to speak to Altobelli’s players.
Sadly, it was on their way to a girl’s youth basketball tournament when the helicopter carrying Bryant and Altobelli crashed in the hills of Calabasas.
Their bond truly started and ended with basketball.
When the Lakers took home the Larry O’Brien Trophy this past weekend, it meant everything to the Orange County community. Bryant was the golden child of OC, despite being from Philadelphia. In his time as a resident of Newport Beach, Bryant was always greeted with respect virtually anywhere he went. Although on a lesser scale, Coach “Alto” was, and always will be seen as a sports legend here in OC as well.
In such an unprecedented year, it’s only natural that we see such a unique response from not only the OC community, but the entire NBA fanbase. Over the past few months, it seemed like everyone was rooting for the Lakers to win the championship in light of the accident. Even the Lakers’ opposition seemed to have respect for the situation.
What transpired over the course of a few months can only be described as poetic justice in the face of one of the toughest years in recent memory.
Two sports legends were taken from us. That did not stop several communities from rallying, a basketball organization from winning the championship. It certainly did not stop Kobe Bryant and John Altobelli from being forgotten.