Loyd, speaking with ESPN after the win, didn’t have to think twice about who she was playing for in the Finals.
It was for her mentor Kobe Bryant.
“This year has been a lot for me,” she said, holding back tears. “This is for Kobe, Gigi, the Bryant family and for Breonna Taylor. We had a lot of emotions coming into this game. For me, this season I had to pay to him. It’s my first season without him, I surrounded myself with people that knew him and I just focused in.”
Loyd honors Kobe and Gigi Bryant, Breonna Taylor
Kobe and his daughter, Gianna, were among seven people killed in a helicopter crash outside of Los Angeles in January — news that shocked the sports world.
Loyd and Kobe grew close in recent years, and would frequently work out together.
“I pretty much talk to Kobe once or twice a month,” Loyd said in January after his death, via Fox13. “I ask him questions about the game or how to beat a certain defense or just about life, really, I just text him and he responds back.”
You molded me. It wasn’t just about basketball, but about how I can make a bigger impact on the world. I’m going to miss our talks. The talks we had about Gigi & how she was the mini version of you. How it scared you because she already had your drive at such a young age. The talks about the passion you had to grow the game and develop young talent. I’m going to miss the way you challenged my mind and pushed me out of my comfort zone. The support and encouragement you always gave me. My heart goes out to Vanessa and the rest of your family. I’m praying for them as well as the other families involved. You always talked about focus and how to keep moving no matter what is thrown at you. Kobe wasn’t just my muse, he was my family. He not only gave me wisdom, he gave me the name Mamba. Mamba is not just a word, it’s a way of life. We don’t quit and we don’t cower; we endure and conquer. I’ll miss you Kobe.
A post shared by Jewell Loyd ~ Gold Mamba (@jewellloyd) on
Loyd also chose to honor Taylor after winning the title, something players in the league have done all season. Taylor, a Louisville-area EMT, was shot multiple times and killed by Louisville police in a botched overnight no-knock raid on her apartment. A grand jury opted not to charge any officers involved directly with her death last month, something that sparked protests yet again.
Loyd finished with 19 points and nine rebounds on Tuesday night while shooting 9-of-18 from the field. The “Gold Mamba” wore gold shoes and the No. 24 on her jersey yet again in the Finals, all in an effort to honor Bryant.
“It’s the gold shoes, knowing that I’m unique, I’m special. I wore the shoes because of Kobe. His jersey number is everything,” she said. “He was the first person to ever believe in me before I got into the league. It’s special. It’s special.”
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