The Los Angeles Lakers dedicated their NBA finals victory to Kobe Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash in January. His death united and motivated the team in a year full of challenges.

The death of Kobe and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others sent shockwaves through the NBA world and beyond. As Kobe was considered as one of the sport’s all-time greats for winning five championships in 20 seasons with the Lakers.

The team president Jeanie Buss acknowledged the bittersweet nature of celebrating the franchise’s first title since 2010 without Bryant, who took home the Finals MVP honours that year.

She said, “To lakers nation, we have been through a heartbreaking tragedy with the loss of our beloved Kobe Bryan and Gianna. Let this trophy serve as a reminder of when we come together, believe in each other, incredible things can happen.

Anthony Davis, who was Bryant’s teammate on the 2012 Olympic team said, “Ever since the tragedy, we wanted to do it for him, and we didn’t want to let him down. I know he’s looking down on us and proud of us, I know (Bryant’s wife) Vanessa is proud of us, the organization is proud of us. It means a lot to us. He was a big brother to all of us and we did this for him.

Congratulations to the LA Lakers and may the departed souls of Kobe Bryant and Gianna rest in power.