Kobe Bryant and Luke Walton shake hands during the Lakers' unveiling of the Shaquille O'Neal statue on March 24, 2017.
(Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images)

Current Lakers Speak to Kobe's Legacy Before Jerseys Retirement

by Joey Ramirez
Digital Reporter

Brandon Ingram knows the significance of his locker at STAPLES Center.

For so long, his spot was occupied by arguably the greatest player in franchise history, Kobe Bryant. One day before the Lakers are set to retire Bryant’s jersey numbers, Ingram reflected on sharing his space with a legend.

“Every day I go in the tunnel, I think about how blessed I am to be in this position,” Ingram said at Sunday’s practice. “This guy spent 20 years in the same position. It’s an honor to try be there, fill some shoes and just try to come here and work every day.”

At halftime of Monday’s game against Golden State, the Lakers will retire both numbers that Bryant wore in his career: 8 and 24.

Twenty-year-old Ingram doesn’t remember much from Bryant’s days as No. 8 (other than YouTube highlights), but the impact of his career wasn’t lost on the Lakers’ young small forward.

“He took every game like it was his last,” Ingram said. “He took advantage of any game or any aspect of the game. He wanted to master everything and was definitely an inspiration of our generation and, of course, many generations (before) me.”

On a personal level, Ingram said that Bryant’s main advice to him thus far in his young career has been to bring “tenacity” on the defensive end.

Head coach Luke Walton — Bryant’s teammate for eight years and two championships — remembers how Bryant had that ferocity on both sides of the ball during his playing career.

“Especially in the fourth quarter, he wanted to guard the other team’s best player,” Walton said. “He studied film on all their moves so that going into games he knew what their go-tos were, what their tendencies were if there was going to be a buzzer-beater.”

Walton recalled how Bryant would usually be the first player to arrive for practice, filling the gym with trash talk when his teammates arrived.

While he knows his team will need to make halftime adjustments during Monday’s game against Golden State, he also wants the players to see the ceremony for a Lakers legend.

“If you mention the Lakers, you think about Kobe,” Lonzo Ball said. “Like I said, I’m glad he’s getting both jerseys retired. I think that’s fitting for him. Hopefully we’ll put on a good show for him.”

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