When Phil Jackson left the Lakers, Jim Buss (son of owner Jerry Buss and the guy running the show now) used the chance to clean house. A lot of teams are laying guys off during the lockout, but the Lakers canned 20 people — video guys, long-time front office people, scouts, trainers and more. Some may be rehired after the lockout but some people around the team thought it was an effort to remove any imprint of Jackson from the franchise.
It rubbed some of the Lakers players the wrong way.
So much so that Kobe Bryant led an effort to give some of the players’ playoff money to two of the video staff guys let go, reports the Los Angeles Times.
Kobe Bryant insisted on giving some of the team’s playoff bonus to two members of the Lakers’ video department whose contracts were not renewed after the season. Chris Bodaken and Patrick O’Keefe split about $65,000 of the Lakers’ playoff bonus…
Said Bodaken: “At the end of the day, he told us he was going to take care of us and he did, and that’s not how most people in the world operate. He not only talks the talk. He walks it….”
Lakers reserve forward Luke Walton took an extra step after the season by providing individual financial gifts to members of the training staff.
Certainly that kind of money is huge for the video guys and pocket change for Kobe, but the gesture is what matters. For all his “cold hearted assassin” image, Kobe cares about the people around him on the team. Kobe was loyal to the guys around the team in a way the franchise wasn’t.
Way more than the Buss family was. Which should be a little troubling to Lakers fans.