(Reuters) – The Los Angeles Lakers will switch to their “Black Mamba” jerseys in honor of the late Kobe Bryant when they seek a record-tying 17th NBA championship on Friday.
The Lakers, who lead the Miami Heat 3-1 in the best-of-seven NBA Finals, are 4-0 this postseason when wearing the Bryant-designed alternate jerseys, which are black with gold trim and feature a subtle snakeskin pattern.
Bryant’s nickname was “Black Mamba”.
“It means something. Something more than just a uniform,” Lakers forward LeBron James told reporters on Thursday.
“It represents an individual who gave the franchise 20 years of his blood, sweat and tears and his dedication to his craft, both on and off the floor, to make that franchise be proud of him, and hopefully vice versa.”
The Lakers had originally planned to wear the jerseys for a potential Game Seven but decided move it up for Friday’s game at Disney World in Florida, where the season resumed in July after a four-month COVID-19 hiatus.
The uniforms were introduced during the 2017-18 season.
Bryant, one of the greatest players of his generation who won five NBA titles during a 20-year career with the Lakers, was killed along with his daughter Gianna and seven others in a helicopter crash in January.
In addition to the original jersey design, the uniforms also feature a patch bearing the number two, Gianna’s jersey number, inside a white heart.
Bryant’s widow went on Instagram to express her excitement over the jersey choice for the potential series clincher.
“Mamba and Mambacita jerseys approved for game 5,” Vanessa Bryant wrote in post on Wednesday night. “Let’s go @lakers.”
Should the Lakers win the championship this year it would be the franchise’s first since Bryant led the team to the second of back-to-back titles in 2010 and tie them with the Boston Celtics for most championships in NBA history.
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto,; Editing by Toby Davis and Ed Osmond)