When you think of a Los Angeles athlete, what comes to mind?
Names like Magic Johnson, Wayne Gretzky, O.J. Simpson, and Fernando Valenzuela are probably some the first on your list. But even with as special as those athletes were, they pale in comparison to Kobe Bryant.
When talking about great Los Angeles athletes, the Black Mamba is perhaps the greatest of All-Time. His game, his personality, his swagger, it all personified the city in a way nobody else could ever match. Bryant was Los Angeles. He was the perfect Laker.
Even back in 2007, everyone knew L.A. was the perfect place for Kobe. So, when he requested a trade that summer, it had the entire league shook. The already accomplished star was having a successful career as a Laker. But after Shaq left for Miami, Kobe eventually grew frustrated with the lack of talent around him. He wanted to win and felt like Los Angeles wasn’t a place he could do that anymore.
When asked by ESPN’s Stephen A Smith if there was anything the Lakers could do to change his mind, Bryant replied with a very blunt “No.” After the three Championships, after the rise to stardom, after being given the team following Shaq’s departure, Bryant was supposed to usher in a new era of success for a franchise rich in accolades.
Instead, Kobe’s trade demand signaled the end of a dominant era in Laker-land. Their guy, the perfect guy, was done. The city of Los Angeles had lost their beloved star… or so it seemed.
As long-time Laker fans know, it was never wise to bet against Jerry Buss. True, Dr. Buss was no magician. But he always seemed to have the perfect solution to life’s biggest problems. For the Lakers, he was the man that just made everything work.
And because of him, the team was able to keep their biggest star. The legendary owner made perhaps one of the greatest moves in Laker history. No, it wasn’t a big signing or a major trade deal. It didn’t involve money or the press either.
It was a telegram. It was a single, simple telegram that saved the Lakers from total destruction.
When finding out about Kobe’s request in 2007, Dr. Buss sent this 12-word message to the L.A. superstar:
“Kobe, as you make this decision, never bet against me winning championships.”
While we can never know Bryant’s exact reaction, reports say the note is what kept Bryant in town. He read the telegram and knew he couldn’t leave the Lakers. He read that letter and knew something special was inevitable.
The rest, well, the rest is history. Kobe went on to win two more Championships and an MVP award while cementing a lasting legacy as one of the greatest players of All-Time. He restored honor to the Purple and Gold by ushering in one of the best eras in the franchise.
He made the Lakers feared again. He made the team cool again.
And while there’s an incredible number of factors that made everything possible, it was the telegram that changed everything. The telegram was a defining moment for the franchise.
Los Angeles, the Lakers, they needed their star. They needed Kobe Bryant, and Kobe Bryant needed them. And Dr. Jerry Buss knew that more than anyone else.
So when Rob Pelinka told the story on ESPN LA, nobody was surprised to find out that he still had the telegram. The note gave a wavering Kobe confidence in the team he was ready to give up on. It became a symbol of trust between two great legends. It became a symbol that marked a legacy of greatness.
Now, with the Lakers falling into dissaray, they need to be reminded of that legacy more than ever before, as their culture of winning and success has never seemed so far away.