The stars aligned for the Lakers last night as an angry LeBron lamented the shooting of Jacob Blake, a proud Anthony Davis came out en fuego, and the team donned Black Mamba jerseys to honor Kobe and Gigi with a big win.
It was a night of unimaginable joy and pain as the Lakers demolished the Blazers 135–115 on 8/24 with Kobe and Gigi Bryant smiling down from above while America mourned another blatant incident of racial injustice. As LeBron sadly lamented after the game: “Having two boys of my own and me being an African American in America and to see what continues to happen with the police brutality towards my kind … it’s very troubling.”
The mixed emotions were on raw display as the Lakers took a 24–8 lead over the Blazers midway through the first quarter. “When I looked up there and seen 24–8, I was like, ‘OK, this is a [sign]. He’s here in the building.’” Yet, after the game, LeBron’s made abundantly clear his mind was on more than just basketball and winning the game: “I got half my brain locked in on the playoffs and the other half on how the hell I can help black people.””
Watching LeBron channel that joy and anger into a 30-point, 10-assist marvelous masterpiece of a game where he shot 10 of 12 from the field and 4 of 5 from beyond the arc while playing just 28 minutes was truly special. The mental focus and discipline, the physical effort and talent, and the laser precision and execution at 35-years old is something we’ve never seen in the NBA before. LeBron is rewriting the rules of what the GOAT means.
Then there’s LeBron’s co-superstar Anthony Davis, who played just 18 minutes last night before leaving with back spasms with the Lakers leading the Blazers by 91–53. Seriously, 18 minutes with a plus/minus of +37? Together, LeBron and AD are the best superstar duo in the league and Davis the King’s best co-star ever: “AD is one of those unicorns and he does things that some of my other great teammates are not capable of doing.”
Their synergy and symbiosis as superstar teammates is unmatched. Davis challenged James to join him on the NBA All-Defensive team while no NBA duo has ever created more assists than the James to Davis connection has. Here’s AD after the Lakers’ Game 1 loss: “I didn’t feel like I performed to the level that I needed to. He let me have my moment and kind of get on myself. And then he talked to me and said I was fine. He said it was one game.”
Indeed, Anthony bounced back with a vengeance the next three games, posting 26.0 points, 9.0 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 2.0 blocks, 1.3 steals in 29.2 minutes per game and shooting 61.7% from the field and 42.9% from deep. His contributions at both ends of the court for the last three games have been exceptional and legitimately MVP caliber: team-best 131.7 offensive rating, team-best 86.6 defensive rating, and team-best 45.2 net rating.
What LeBron James and Anthony Davis were able to do with last night’s dominating performance on 8/24, the day that will forever be Kobe Bryant day, was to showcase how they’ve totally embraced ‘Mamba Mentality.’ There was no taking the pedal off the metal and giving the Blazers an opportunity to get back in the game and the series. Instead, we saw the stone cold killer instinct that always made Kobe Bryant such a feared foe.
But it’s not just the Lakers’ superstars who are clicking on all cylinders and playing with Mamba Mentality. It’s suddenly the entire Lakers’ team that’s not only playing lock-down defense but also shooting lights out from deep. The Lakers shut down the Blazers’ high-powered defense the last three games and now have the #1 defensive rating in the playoffs. They’ve also come alive from deep and are shooting a league 7th best 38.3%.
While the Rockets and Clippers, their next expected foes, are struggling, LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and the Lakers seem to have harnessed the power of Mamba Mentality to pursue their 17th NBA championship.