LOS ANGELES - Ahead of Tuesday night’s nationally televised game between the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers, the head coaches of both teams entered their respective press conferences focused, determined, and ready to handle business.
Lakers head coach Darvin Ham knew what he was in for that night, especially without LeBron James, who was ruled out with an ankle injury. Ham has quite the undertaking and is doing everything he can to handle the pressure of being the head coach of one of the world’s most celebrated sports franchises. Entering the game, his team had a .500 record through 44 games, and for Laker Nation, losing to the Clippers is about as shameful as it gets.
Clippers head coach Ty Lue led his team in overcoming an 18-point deficit during a Sunday night matinée against Brooklyn. He has four future Hall of Famers on his roster and a closing championship window with Russell Westbrook, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and James Harden. Things are going well, but as they sit in fourth place in the West, they still have plenty to work on. Still, the red-hot Clippers look like championship contenders.
The Clippers want to conquer their championship hopes, which would be their first in franchise history. Fans continue to embrace the moment and wonder if this is too good to be true, considering they’ve been let down time and time again. Hopefully, not this time, as the Clippers hope this is the season they get it right.
As Ham and Lue took questions about the highly anticipated matchup, both took their time to reflect on NBA icon Kobe Bryant. The game came just days before the four-year mark of Bryant's tragic passing.
Later that evening, the Clippers won the game 127-116.
No matter which team fans root for, there is no denying the greatness of Kobe Bryant. See what Ham and Lue had to say as they reflected on Bryant's legacy.
Darvin Ham on Kobe Bryant: ‘Undeniable, extreme greatness’
Head coach Darvin Ham of the Los Angeles Lakers. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Darvin Ham and Kobe Bryant both started their NBA careers in 1996. Ham entered the draft after going to the Sweet Sixteen with Texas Tech and Bryant entered the league weeks after graduating from Lower Merion High School.
Eight years later, they would face each other in the 2004 NBA Finals, where Ham won his first championship. Of course, by that time, Bryant had already won three rings in the Kobe and Shaq era.
"Having the opportunity to come into the league at the same time as him, played against him, coaching him, really knowing him from a competitive standpoint," Ham recalled when asked about Bryant’s legacy.
Ham also pointed out Kobe’s greatness extends beyond the world of basketball. "Whatever he involved himself in, he wanted to conquer it," Ham said.
He added, "From his documentaries, books, basketball, all of that…the plan he was about to unveil for women’s basketball, it’s all of that. Anything he wanted to get involved in, he wanted to be the best at."
Ham retired as a player in 2005 and from 2011-2012, Ham worked as an assistant coach under then Lakers head coach, Mike Brown.
A video posted by the Los Angeles Lakers in 2022 from what appears to be Ham's first season as the Hawks coach in 2013, reveals the two had a special bond and that Mamba raved about Ham’s potential as a coach.
"[Kobe and Darvin] had daily sessions after practice. Because Darvin was a physical player, he’s a physical coach. Kobe said, ‘I love that. That helped my game,’"the video caption posted to X said.
Years later, Ham's journey led him back to the Purple and Gold, and Ham says he feels Bryant's presence. After all, the arena was once known as "The House that Kobe Built."
"God rest his soul and his spirit. We still feel his presence in a lot of different areas. Not just in basketball but in life. He made a huge impact and my takeaway from that [is] just his work ethic. It was nonstop in terms of him trying to be the best at whatever he touched," Ham said. "The way he diversified himself. [It's] crazy, undeniable, extreme greatness. "
Ty Lue on Kobe Bryant: 'He gave everything he had to the game of basketball'
Head coach Tyronn Lue of the LA Clippers. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) (Getty Images)
Los Angeles Clippers head coach Ty Lue is an anomaly in the world of basketball, having worked with Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and Michael Jordan. Also, he’s one of the rare people connected to LA’s two NBA teams.
Lue began his NBA career two years after Bryant did. The two were teammates for three seasons and won two championships together.
Kobe Bryant (C) and Tyronn Lue (L) of the Los Angeles Lakers in 2001. (Photo by VINCE BUCCI / AFP) (Getty Images)
"Coming in, I was a young player when I played with Kobe, he was young and just his dedication to the game, and he gave everything he had to the game of basketball. And that's kind of like, you know, how I live my life. Like, I owe everything to basketball. That's kind of how Kobe lived his life. He wanted to be the best. He wanted to be the greatest," Lue recalled ahead of the matchup against his former team.
Los Angeles Lakers' stars Kobe Bryant (C) and Shaquille O'Neal (L), sitting out early in the fourth quarter with a commanding lead, joke with Washington Wizards' guard Tyronn Lue (R) on April 2002. (TIM SLOAN/AFP via Getty Images)
Lue added it is Bryant’s "Mamba Mentality" that inspires him each day.
"He wanted to be the best. He wanted to be the greatest. And just seeing the hard work he put in every day of being the first to the gym, last leave. In the summertime, workouts in the morning, 5:30 in the morning."
Lue retired as a player in 2009. Fast-forward to 2016, Lue became the 14th person to win a championship as a player and as a head coach.
He added Bryant’s "dedication and commitment" to being the best continues to motivate him each day.
"Every day, stepping on a court in between the lines, you want to compete at a high level and, you know, we owe it all to Kobe," Lue said.