What Vanessa Bryant, LeBron James Said about Kobe after Lakers Won NBA Title

From the moment Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna were tragically killed in a helicopter last January along with seven other people, the Los Angeles Lakers repeatedly spoke of wanting to win the NBA title as a tribute to Bryant.

On Sunday night, they delivered on their promise, defeating the Miami Heat 106-93 in Game 6 of the NBA Finals to clinch a first NBA title in a decade.

As fans wearing Bryant jerseys gathered to celebrate outside Staples Center in Los Angeles, Bryant's wife, Vanessa, shared a heartfelt message of congratulations for Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka.

"Congratulations Uncle P! Congratulations @Lakers Kobe was right [...] 'stay the course—block out the noise,'" she wrote as a caption to a photo of her husband and Pelinka she posted to an Instagram story: "Wish Kobe and Gianna were here to see this."

Gianna was just 13 when she died in January and Pelinka, who used to be Bryant's agent, was her godfather.

The Lakers GM spoke emotionally of what winning the title meant for the franchise at the end of such a tumultuous year.

"2020 has been a tragic and very difficult year in many ways, with what happened on January 26," Pelinka said as he spoke to the press after Game 6.

"And I think Kobe and Gianna have guided this team the entire year. Kobe's voice is always in my head, always, every day, every minute.

"And I think to be able to—for LeBron [James], Anthony [Davis], Coach [Frank] Vogel, myself and for [team owner] Jeanie [Buss], for us to be able to win this championship doesn't take away the sting of the loss, but what it does is it helps us add to their legacy."

When Pelinka was appointed as general manager in 2017, Bryant told his longtime friend he trusted him to return the Lakers to the top of the NBA world.

"He [Bryant] said, 'I'll give you two, three years, you'll fix this. You'll get the Lakers back on top'," Pelinka explained.

"I guess you were right, man. You give me the energy to do it. [...] Kobe and Gianna's legacy will last forever. It will impact lives around the world in positive ways, and this championship and this Lakers championship in 2020 is partly to build on that legacy and honor them, and for us to be able to do that, the moment couldn't be any more special to do that for them."

The Lakers honored Bryant throughout the playoffs, at times wearing "Black Mamba" jerseys, which were designed by the late Bryant himself. Initially introduced in the 2018 season, the jerseys were wheeled out again this year following Bryant's death.

The Lakers won four of their five playoff games they donned the special black jerseys in, with the only loss coming in Game 5 of the NBA Finals.

Speaking at Bryant's memorial service earlier this year, LeBron James spoke of his desire to continue the Lakers great's legacy. James was named NBA Finals MVP for the fourth time on Sunday and he explained the Lakers were desperate to honor Bryant's tragic death with an NBA title.

“That brought us even closer.”

LeBron on the Lakers winning the championship for Kobe #NBAFinals pic.twitter.com/d7jfgzzxEn

— NBA TV (@NBATV) October 12, 2020

"We got as close as you possibly can be, when that moment happened," he told NBA TV after Game 6.

"It brought the whole basketball world close as well, but when you're internal and it hits home, it just means that much more and we locked in from that very moment and said, 'This is bigger than us.'"

Fellow Lakers star Anthony Davis echoed James' stance.

"Ever since the tragedy, all we wanted to do was do it for him," he explained. "I know he's looking down on us proud of us. I know Vanessa's proud of us, the organization's proud of us. It means a lot to us. It's a tough moment, man. He was a big brother to all of us. We did this for him."

Los Angeles Lakers, NBA Finals
A Lakers fan walks with a Lakers flag in front of the Staples Center on October 11 in Los Angeles, California. People gathered to celebrate after the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Miami Heat in Game 6 of the NBA Finals. Brandon Bell/Getty