“Kobe!” Anthony Davis Etched his name into Lakers history with his game 2 buzzer beater

Just like that, Anthony Davis has his spot in Lakers history.

No matter what else is to come in his Lakers career, he has taken up permanent residence alongside the other makers of this celebrated franchise’s most iconic postseason shots: Jerry West, Robert Horry, Derek Fisher and, of course, Kobe Bryant, whose name Davis screamed as he sprinted into the joyous mass of teammates.

Davis didn’t need L.A. in order to be a great player, he’s been that since his rookie season. What he lacked with the Pelicans was the platform. The opportunity. The moment.

On Sunday night in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals, Davis found his chance.

With the Lakers on the verge of blowing a 10 point second half lead to the ever resident Denver Nuggets, Davis sent an arcing 3-pointer through the net as time expired to give the Lakers a 105-103 win and a commanding 2-0 lead.

This is what Davis wanted when he left New Orleans for the bright lights of Los Angeles. To be in the spotlight, knocking down the clutch shots, and making a name for himself in the playoffs.

“It’s for sure the biggest shot of my career,” Davis said. “When I left (New Orleans), I just wanted to be able to compete for a championship, and I know that moments like this comes with it.”

Even for a franchise in pursuit of its 17th NBA championship, a collection of hoops hardware that embodies an embarrassment of success over a 72-year history, there had never been a moment quite like this.

An iconic shot, not met with the thunderous crowd of Staples Center, or the cries of the fans in an away game.

“(It) probably would have blew the roof off Staples Center, A.D. hitting that shot with our crowd,” LeBron James said.

While it should have been a nerve recking moment for me as a Lakers fan, or the players on the court, I never once felt like the Lakers were going to lose that game, even down with 2.1 seconds left.

They were not going to lose. Not in uniforms Kobe designed.

“We just play a little different,” Davis said. “Our swagger is a little different. Every time we put on those jerseys, obviously we’re representing him. Especially in those jerseys, it’s his jersey, one he created, and any time we put it on we want to win. … It’s a constant reminder that Kobe is with us and we kind of have the spirit in those jerseys.”

So there was a buzzer-beater, a signature moment for the newest superstar, and there was Kobe, always in the hearts of the Lakers and persistently finding his way into this playoff run nearly eight months after the tragedy that shattered this franchise and the basketball world.

Since Bryant, his daughter and seven others died in that helicopter crash back in January, Lakers coach Frank Vogel has often said the Lakers want to embody on the court what Kobe stood for. To honor his memory.

This is the first time since 1991 that the Lakers have reached the Western Conference finals without Bryant on the roster. And in the locker room after the game, TNT cameras captured Vogel calling the game-winner a “Mamba shot.”

“That’s a shot Kobe Bryant would hit,” he later told reporters. “To me, A.D. coming off just flying to the wing like that, catch-and-shoot with the biggest game on the line of our season, nothing but net, it’s a Mamba shot.”

Davis played with Bryant on the 2012 Olympic team and, along with James, got a tattoo honoring him after the crash.

“He’s hit countless shots like that to win games,” Davis said, “whether it’s in the playoffs, finals. But it was a special one for me. … To do something like that, and with the jersey we wore tonight, it just makes it even more special.”

What gets lost in the greatness of the moment was that it was actually the Lakers’ third attempt at a game-winner. After a timeout, the Lakers swung the ball to Alex Carsuo, who missed a top-of-the-key 3 that landed in the hands of Danny Green, who missed from 17 feet.

When the ball was knocked out of bounds, 2.1 seconds remained. The Lakers were out of timeouts, but knew what play they wanted to draw up. It was a play they ran earlier in the season.

Davis sprinted from the right wing to the left side. Mason Plumlee peeled off to double-team James at the elbow, leaving Davis open. Rondo found him for the game-winner.

For Davis, it was retribution for a shot that had been marinating on his conscience for more than six months. On March 10, the night before the league shut down due to the coronavirus, the Lakers lost 104-102 to Brooklyn after Davis missed a 3 from the same spot on the floor at the buzzer.

It would be the last shot he attempted in a game until the end of July. Davis lived with the aftertaste of that shot for four months, beating himself up about it in conversations with James.

“The first, probably like four days, I was talking to him like, ‘Damn, I should have made that shot. I’ve got to make that shot,’” Davis said.

On Sunday, James said: “It’s not about making a shot. It’s about having a belief of just taking it, for one, and living with the result.”

James is somewhat of an expert on this topic. He went through his ups and downs, passing up game winners, missing them, and yes making them as recently as his 2018 NBA Finals run.

For Davis he is still in the early stages, but it was a great start, and a boost in confidence.

Having James on your team, yet you get the call for the final shot, is monumental.

Davis draining the winner in their first postseason together was symbolic, and perhaps it will be referenced when the story is eventually told of James passing the proverbial torch to Davis.

As good as James is, and there is no question that he sets the tone for everything the Lakers do, he would not have been able to achieve what he has this season without Davis. And vice versa.

“If one of them is not going,” Vogel said, “the other one is. … When they’re both going at the same time, we’re near impossible to stop. Those guys both carried each other throughout the game and obviously a big part of the win.”

Despite slotting in as No. 2 in the Lakers’ pecking order, Davis has averaged 28.7 points and 10.7 rebounds over his 12 playoff games. He followed up a 37-point performance in Game 1 against Denver with 31 points in Game 2.

James scored 20 of the Lakers’ first 40 points as they built a 16-point lead in the first half. But he struggled in the second, shooting just 2-of-9 with four turnovers, including a bad pass that led to a Jokic 3-pointer that cut the Lakers’ lead to 100-99.

In those moments, Davis was the one who put the Lakers on his back. After scoring just nine points in the first half, he poured in 22 in the second half, including the Lakers’ final 10 points in a game that saw four lead changes in the final 32 seconds.

“To be completely honest, in the second half, I leaned on him,” James said, “and he brought us home. So I just tried to set the example early on, and we leaned on him, especially in the fourth quarter, and he brought us home.”

Davis wanted this: the pressure of restoring glory to the Lakers franchise, of playing alongside James. It’s a partnership that has worked to perfection and has the Lakers rolling toward a championship.

“He makes it a lot easier for me,” Davis said. “Just being able to want this type of pressure, this type of spotlight, and go out and play in big games and make big-time plays and big-time shots for my team, it was definitely what I wanted.”


“The job is definitely not over until we’re able to win the ring,” Davis said. “That when it’s over, and that’s when the test is completed.”

Until then, Davis has this: a signature moment that stands next to some of the greatest shots in franchise history.

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