On February 21, thousands showed up to the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles to pay their respects to former Los Angeles Lakers owner Jerry Buss, who passed away on Feb. 18 after an 18-month battle with cancer.
The Nokia Theatre crowd was filled with former Lakers players and coaches, and many of them took to the stage to express how much Dr. Buss meant to them personally.
One of those who shared his thoughts was current Lakers captain Kobe Bryant, who used the platform to both speak from his heart and to relay a message to the rest of his teammates, most notably Dwight Howard.
"I encourage all of you, me included, to just look around the room and look at the greatness of one man's vision," said Bryant to a crowd of approximately 4,000 people. "We all have one thing in common, that we all believed in Dr. Jerry Buss."
Buss was a shrewd businessman who turned a $1,000 investment into a team that is now worth more than a billion dollars.
And when it came to his beloved Lakers, Buss was committed to doing whatever it took to win each and every season.
In the 33 years that Buss ran the team, the Los Angeles Lakers made the NBA Finals 16 times and won 10 championships. But despite the sense of urgency that seems to constantly surround the team, the thing that Bryant says that he learned the most from Dr. Buss was "to be patient."
Somewhere, there's a happy medium between Bryant's drive and the laid-back attitude of Howard.
On one hand, there's Bryant saying that he has "two years max" before he decides to hang them up. On the other hand, there's Howard who believes that the current iteration of the Lakers has years to figure it all out.
I asked Dwight about his role in Lakers offense. Revelatory answer: "We have years to play with each other, so it's a learning process."— KEVIN DING (@KevinDing) February 21, 2013
One would love to have been a fly on the wall when Bryant first got wind of Howard's comments. And while Bryant may, in fact, feel the draw of the fierce urgency of now, he did take the time during Dr. Buss' memorial service to put this season in the proper perspective.
"[It's important] for us to look around this room and to understand that we're playing for something bigger than ourselves, bigger than a single season," said Bryant, according to the Huffington Post. "We are playing for the memory of a great man, which is Dr. Jerry Buss."
Earlier in the week, Bryant took the microphone prior to a game at the Staples Center and expressed a similar sentiment.
"His vision has transcended the game and we are all...spoiled by his vision and by his drive to win year after year after year," Bryant said.
In short, Bryant was merely trying to convey the point that it's not about one man or one incident or one game. It is—and forever will be—about winning the NBA championship. The time for petty disagreements is in the past, whatever happened before is now null and void.
It's a tactic Phil Jackson often used on the Chicago Bulls teams of the '90s and Los Angeles Lakers of last decade. Bryant studied under the "Zen Master" for several seasons, so he's well aware of how Jackson's method of passive-aggressive motivation works.
Whether it has an effect on Howard and/or the rest of his teammates remains to be seen. But until every member of the team realizes that the journey is far bigger than themselves, the Lakers will fail to achieve Dr. Buss' ultimate goal.