Jerry West Reacts to Lakers’ 17th Championship Title, Plus: His Thoughts on Kobe Bryant’s ‘Mamba Mentality’
The Los Angeles Lakers won it all last night, beating the Miami Heat in six games in the NBA Finals!
The team's 17th championship win was a bright spot in a difficult year that began with the loss of Lakers great Kobe Bryant in January.
“Extra's” Billy Bush spoke with NBA legend Jerry West, who brought Kobe to Los Angeles as the Lakers general manager in 1996.
Jerry said, “Anytime during periods like this—we witnessed families disintegrating, loss of jobs, people not having the ability to feed themselves—every once in a while, something perfect happens here in Los Angeles. They got a great prize, something they can really be proud of.”
West continued, “The people who have been Laker fans for years, to see a team like this accomplish what they accomplished in an unbelievably difficult environment… Congratulations to the Lakers on an incredible job.”
The last time the Lakers won the NBA Finals was 10 years ago, with Kobe leading the charge. He won five championship titles with the team during his 20-year NBA career.
Along with reflecting on his last conversation with Billy about Kobe's sudden death in a helicopter crash, West said, “When I think back, how appropriate was the response from the players: 'We are going to win this for Kobe Bryant and also the city of Los Angeles.'”
When Billy mentioned that we all need the “Mamba Mentality” right now, Jerry commented, “He sort of created this mentality. I think a lot of people have that, Bill. They don't have the pizzazz and talent to pull it off. When you have his mentality, his excellence as a player—more importantly what he meant to the city if Los Angeles—this makes this more significant with everything that has transpired.”
In 2016, Kobe retired from the NBA at age 37. West shared, “If he were alive, I think he would have been very excited to see the Lakers win… When you look at how hard he worked at the game, his dedication… Kobe was extremely bright, extremely bright. He also was driven… He was going to have the same effect on the world after he stopped playing basketball.”
Two years after his NBA retirement, Kobe won an Oscar for his animated short film “Dear Basketball.” Along with investing in companies, he was working on projects with his multimedia company Granity Studios.
West pointed out that the whole league should be proud of this season. Despite difficult circumstances, including the COVID-19 pandemic, the NBA was able to complete the season and crown a champion. He said, “People in the respective cities had something to root for… Celebrating is something positive, not something negative.”
West won one championship as a player for the Lakers in 1972. After his playing career was over, he also won six more as the Lakers GM. In 2015 and 2017, he won two as an executive for the Golden State Warriors.