When the Lakers take the court on Friday night in Game 5 against the Heat, they will attempt to close out the NBA Finals. And they will do that while wearing their 'Black Mamba' uniforms, which were inspired by Kobe Bryant, who tragically passed away earlier this year.
The significance of honoring Bryant on such a big stage is not lost on Lakers star LeBron James.
"It has that distinct 'Mamba' print on it and it means something. It's something more than just a uniform," James said in a video conference with reporters on Thursday.
"It represents an individual who gave the franchise 20 years. That's a lot of blood, sweat and tears and dedication to his craft on and off the floor to make that franchise be proud of him."
The Lakers have been wearing the 'Black Mamba' alternate jersey, which Bryant designed himself, since 2018. L.A. originally planned to wear the jerseys for Games 2 and 7 of this year's Finals, but made a change for Game 5 now that they are up 3-1 and one win away from a championship.
If the Lakers do close out the Heat, they will win their first title since Bryant was the star back in 2010. It would go a long way for James as he hopes to establish his own legacy with the decorated franchise.
James also touched on that element, how he is hoping to add his name to the list of Lakers greats.
"What I've learned being a Laker is that the Laker fanbase doesn't give a damn about what you've done before until you become a Laker," James said. "They don't care about your resume at all until you become a Laker, then you've gotta do it as a Laker. Then, they will respect you."
As James noted, Bryant isn't the only Lakers great who had an alternate jersey inspired by him. Shaquille O'Neal also got the honor in 2019. If James wins a championship with L.A., or several, perhaps he will get the same honor someday.
For now, his focus is on closing out the Heat and honoring Bryant along the way.