Slogans such as “Say Her Name,” which honors Breonna Taylor, a Black woman shot and killed by Louisville police on March 13, and “How Many More?”, which addresses the numerous lives lost to police brutality, are bringing courtside awareness to social justice issues and Black Lives Matter protests in the aftermath of the May killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis
The NBA’s approach to law enforcement reform will be on full display as the Finals start on Wednesday, September 30, at 5:30 p.m. between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Miami Heat.
But there is another emotional angle driving the Lakers as they approach the Finals: The legacy of Kobe Bryant.
This championship series will be watched with heavy hearts as the Lakers, led by forward Lebron James, are looking to win the championship for the late Bryant, who died earlier this year in a helicopter crash.
“Obviously, Kobe’s death was heart-breaking for many. However, even with that in mind, I’ve been watching the NBA this year more than I ever have, and I think that has a lot to do with the players’ support for protesting, and the bubble experience,” Dustin Tolerton, a former Diablo Valley College student told The Inquirer.
“My coworkers and I, we aren’t really big on sports. But ever since the playoffs began, it’s all we can talk about. From Kobe to the bubble to COVID, it’s all been one hell of an experience,” added Tolerton.
Bryant, who won five championships with the Lakers, has been the inspiration for the entire Lakers organization throughout the chaos that has been the NBA bubble.
The bubble refers to the isolated compound NBA teams have played in this season, located at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, to keep players and coaches safe and exposure-free from any COVID-related risks.
Sam Walter, a psychology major at DVC and NBA fan since childhood, is rooting for the Lakers despite not being a fan.
“Knowing that the entire Lakers team is on the biggest stage playing for it all, playing for Kobe, is huge.”
From months of racial justice protests after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, to the constant anxiety and health concerns around COVID-19, people are heeding the cathartic joy of sports. Many are honoring the protests taking place to inspire change to people all over the U.S..
Prominent athletes on the court have been trying to effectively use their platform to spread messages of social change throughout the U.S. The upcoming NBA Finals are expected to continue the condemnation of police brutality across the nation, as two of the top teams in the league will fight it out to win it all.