NBA: Lakers resting, waiting
LOS ANGELES ó Kobe Bryant was positively giddy.
The Los Angeles Lakers star and his teammates, resplendent in caps and T-shirts honoring their Western Conference title, were celebrating on the Staples Center floor as Jerry West spoke to the crowd.
The 70-year-old West, known as Mr. Clutch during a Hall of Fame career with the Lakers, presented his former team with the conference championship trophy following its 100-92 victory over the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday night.
“I’ve seen a lot of great players in my life, but you people in L.A. are very privileged to see this young man here, Kobe Bryant. He’s something special,” West said.
“A dream come true, the answer to a prayer,” a beaming Bryant would tell the fans a few minutes later.
West was the Lakers’ general manager 12 years ago when he pulled off a deal even greater than the Pau Gasol heist, acquiring Bryant from Charlotte for center Vlade Divac a couple of weeks after the NBA draft. Divac was expendable because the Lakers were about to sign free agent Shaquille O’Neal.
Bryant, the 13th overall pick in the draft, had just graduated from Lower Merion High outside Philadelphia and needed a mentor as he headed to Los Angeles. West was perfect for the job.
The two have been close ever since, even after West left the Lakers following the 1999-2000 season, so the heartfelt embrace they shared following Thursday night’s ceremony was sincere.
The Lakers earned their first NBA finals berth since 2004 exactly one year after Bryant called the team’s front office “a mess” on a local radio show.
How things have changed.
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