The Lakers could clinch their first NBA championship since Bryant led the team to victory in 2010.
The Los Angeles Lakers will wear their Kobe Bryant-inspired Black Mamba jerseys in Game 5 of the NBA Finals, as confirmed by the league's online uniform hub. The Lakers had initially planned to wear the Mamba uniforms only twice in the Finals, for Game 2 and a possible Game 7. With a 3-1 lead entering Game 5, though, the Lakers decided to play out the potential clincher wearing uniforms that honor their late legend.
Of course, there may be a competitive advantage to wearing the uniforms as well. The Lakers are 4-0 wearing the Mamba jerseys this postseason, including a Game 2 win in these Finals. In all likelihood, that is a coincidence, but there is an argument to be made that wearing the uniforms Bryant helped design is an inspiring force for a Lakers team that reveres him. With a championship on the line in Friday's Game 5, that motivation should never be higher.
The Mamba uniforms are hardly the only sartorial monument the Lakers have made for Bryant. They've been wearing a patch with his "KB" initials on their jerseys since his death in January. Ahead of Game 4, LeBron James wore a shirt featuring a famous picture of Bryant and the words "More Than Ever With Love." The first time the Lakers wore the Mamba uniforms during the playoffs, a first-round game against the Portland Trail Blazers, they jumped out to a 24-8 lead. Those were Bryant's uniform numbers.
Bryant's premature death in January shook the NBA to its core. Nothing will ever undo the tragedy itself, but the Lakers could do him no greater honor than winning a championship in jerseys he helped design.
Originally published to CBS Sports on Oct. 9, 2020 at 9:20 a.m. PT.