LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Lakers honored long-time athletic trainer Gary Vitti during Sunday’s game against the Boston Celtics.
A video tribute to Vitti was displayed during the intermission between the first and second quarter, and he was presented with an honorary Lakers’ jersey from general manager Mitch Kupchak along with two tickets to Italy following the conclusion of the regular season.
Vitti is in his 32nd and final season as the team’s head athletic trainer, making him the longest-tenured athletic trainer in franchise history having worked over 3,000 preseason, regular season, and playoff games for the Lakers.
Since his arrival, the Lakers have won eight NBA championships that included being named the NBA Trainer of the Year in 1991 by the NBA’s Trainers Association.
“He’s never put a uniform on but he has played a huge part in all the championships won,” Lakers head coach Byron Scott said.
Following the game, Kobe Bryant was very appreciative of the loud ovation Vitti was given by the fans during his special tribute.
“I was really happy to see the ovation he received,” Bryant said. “Everybody knows about all of the great players that the Lakers have had, but none of us would be able to get out there and perform the way we performed without him. It’s just not possible. He’s the guy behind all of it. What he has meant to my career is [something that] you can’t really put into words.”
Julius Randle also voiced a similar sentiment toward Vitti but went further stating that his relationship with the longtime Lakers athletic trainer extends off the court.
“It’s sad. Gary has been huge for me these past two years, especially last year with my broken leg,” Randle. “His and my relationship goes far beyond basketball. he cares about me as a person. It’s sad but I’m sure I’ll keep in contact with the old man.”
Prior to joining the Lakers, he had worked with the Utah Jazz for the 1981-82 season and served as head Athletic trainer and an adjunct assistant professor at the University of Portland for two years.
Along with working with Los Angeles, he also served as the lead trainer for several other sporting events since 1984 such as the Los Angeles Strings tennis, the Sumer Pro League, and several summer basketball camps throughout the country.
Bob Garcia IV
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