The Lakers have won the Larry O’Brien Trophy for the first time since 2010. Here are five different perspectives on the NBA Finals series, along with Los Angeles reclaiming basketball glory.
A season in which the league was forced to adapt to a global pandemic was miraculously brought to a close. After months of bubble play, the Los Angeles Lakers took home the Larry O’Brien Trophy for the first time since Kobe Bryant and the Lakers conquered the Boston Celtics in the 2010 NBA Finals.
The Lakers, who finished with the best record in the Western Conference and the second-best record in the entire league, have now won 17 championships in the franchise’s history. That feat ties the Celtics for the most championships obtained by an NBA franchise. It also gave Laker’ star LeBron James his fourth ring, along with four NBA Finals MVP trophies.
This magical run from James and the Lakers, however, cannot be properly observed from one analytical standpoint. It must be dissected through several different lenses. Here are five perspectives from the historic 2020 NBA Finals.
The Lakers did this for Kobe — Kane Casillas
January of 2020 saw the tragic loss of Lakers legend Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna Bryant. This, undeniably, gave the Lakers an even greater motivation to make the playoffs and win a 17th championship.
Bryant, who earned the nickname “The Black Mamba,” spent his entire 20-year career with the Lakers and quickly became the face of the franchise for the modern-era team. Along the way, he earned five NBA Championships, two Finals MVP wins and was named an All-Star 18 times. His legacy on the court was always one to look up to, but nobody expected to refer to Kobe’s career as a “legacy” so soon.
The Lakers quickly honored the passing of Bryant by donning the new “Black Mamba” jerseys. They would wear these jerseys multiple times throughout the playoffs, and for a while, hadn’t lost a game in them. That all changed in Game 5 of the NBA Finals when the Lakers were leading the Miami Heat three games to one.
The Lakers announced they would switch to the Black Mamba jerseys for Game 5, and the message was clear: they had no intention of losing that contest. They wanted to win the game and title for Kobe in his inspired jerseys. Unfortunately, this did not come to fruition. The Lakers lost that game by three points. Rather, they won the following game, Game 6, in dominating fashion wearing their white jerseys.
Regardless of the jerseys they wore, the Lakers spent their entire postseason dedicating the season to Bryant and his daughter Gianna. They wanted to win it for both of them, and for fans of basketball., thankfully, they did.
The LeBron and Jordan debate only intensifies — Candice Evans
Another LeBron James ring means another piece to an everlasting debate between the greatness of Michael Jordan and LeBron James.
The debate is listless, and clearly, there isn’t an actual answer to resolve the conflict. These Finals, though, served as a further solidifier in the difference between the two.
Jordan was a killer. Jordan’s greatness is shown in his “body count.” No one ate during Jordan’s era. There are NBA greats who are ringless because they were unlucky enough to be born around the same time as Jordan. Karl Malone, Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Reggie Miller and so many other greats — who would kill in this era — are without the coveted NBA jewelry because of Micheal Jeffry Jordan.
Then you look at LeBron and you see Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard getting their plate full. But that doesn’t define LeBron. LeBron is defined by his resurrecting abilities. He can take a franchise from the dirt to heaven’s doors. He did it with Cleveland not once, but twice. He did it in Miami. And we just saw it with the Lakers.
LeBron isn’t a killer, he’s a healer.
Jordan is clearly the greatest scorer the game has ever seen. If it’s a tight game down the stretch, Jordan is simply the guy you want with the rock. LeBron is and never has been that type of offensive player. He has more to his game than his scoring. His leadership style is fundamentally more inclusive. Where Jordan bullied executives and punched his teammates, LeBron is known for giving elaborate pregame viral speeches.
Yes, it takes a village to run a kingdom. LeBron and Klutch Management has always been capable of migrating an entourage to the new cities and markets he goes to. I mean the king has to have his guardsman, right?
Jordan was a killer. LeBron is a healer. There’s a difference between the two. Their styles are so diverse that no matter what LeBron does to chase the ghost of Jordan, the debate will never truly be decided.
The Davis experiment worked in LA’s favor — Alan Chang
After winning the 2020 NBA championship, it was clear that trading for Anthony Davis worked in the Lakers’ favor.
Davis played an important role at the five throughout this year, and at times, he looked like the best player on the court.
When the trade was officially made on July 7, the Lakers traded Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, that year’s No. 4 pick, and three future first-round picks to New Orleans for Davis. They also sent Moritz Wagner, Isaac Bonga and JeMerrio Jones, along with a 2022 second-round pick, to the Washington Wizards to clear cap space for a potential signing of Kawhi Leonard.
While the Leonard acquisition failed to happen, the trade with the Pelicans was questioned by several analysts. Many thought they gave up a lot for Davis, especially considering Davis’ contract is set to expire in 2021.
However, we have never seen a championship roster built with so much pressure. The trade would be seen as a failure if either the Lakers failed to win a title in 2020 or if Davis decided to not sign an extension.
But the first scenario was proven wrong. The Lakers ended up 52-19 for the season, finishing with the best record in the Western Conference, and Davis averaged 26.1 ppg, 9.3 rpg and 3.2 apg. In the postseason, Los Angeles beat the Portland Trail Blazers, Houston Rockets and Denver Nuggets in the playoffs, going 12-3 in the series.
Days later, it was official. By beating the Miami Heat 4-2, the Lakers won the championship. And while LeBron James won the Finals MVP, Davis was possibly the best Laker that entire playoff, leading his team in points per game (27.7) and blocks per game (1.4).
Pelinka’s move with New Orleans was a complete success. And if L.A. signs Davis this offseason, the move will only continue to be flawless.
The Heat will only get better after defeat — Jordan Green
Yes, the Lakers and their team should be the focal point of these playoffs. They executed a game plan heading into the offseason, and ultimately general manager Rob Pelinka executed it to perfection. They are rightful champions in every sense of the phrase. Yet, the Heat should fail to fall in the pit of Los Angeles’s shadow.
Eric Spoelstra and the Heat did something truly special throughout the past several months. In the East, the talk was Milwaukee. It was Toronto. It was Boston. Yet Miami found a way to sneak into the spotlight, and they did it by leaving carnage on their path towards triumph.
The Heat went 12-3 before claiming the Eastern Conference. They began the playoffs on a seven-game winning streak. Their point differential throughout Eastern Conference playoff play was +75. And somehow these statistics still don’t do the Miami Heat justice.
After years of being questioned for his leadership, Jimmy Butler was finally able to showcase the kind of player he is; a warrior. Averaging 22.2 points throughout the entire playoffs, the four-time All-Star proved his true stature as one of the game’s elite scorers. His 806 minutes played throughout these 21 games led the league, showing that his heart now seems set in Miami.
And why wouldn’t it be? Their core is the perfect juxtaposition between experience and youth. Built through veterans such as Jae Crowder, Goran Dragic and Andre Iguodala, what makes this team so exciting for their future is the young talent. Not only do they have sharpshooters in Duncan Robinson, who’s 25, and Tyler Herro, who’s only 20, but they also have a force at the five in Bam Adebayo who should be able to prove himself as one of the league’s best big men as soon as next season.
Add this with, arguably, the best coach in basketball in Spoelstra, and you have a top contender in the East for the next several campaigns.
This was not a one-year miracle sort of deal for the Heat. They will return to the playoffs next year, and the year after that, and then several years following. And perhaps this roster can bring a title back to The Magic City.
Rondo was the dark horse throughout this series — Reid Conant
Rajon Rondo became the first-ever player to win a title with the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers this past Sunday. Rondo’s impact on the Lakers, however, wasn’t necessarily spotted until the most important part of the season, the playoffs.
Like his former teammate Paul Pierce has said, “Playoff Rondo” was in full effect.
Rondo has had some historic performances in the postseason throughout his career, add the entirety of this one to that list. Although he didn’t break out in any instance this year, his impact was crucial down the stretch of multiple games. His decision-making and experience was a huge piece off the bench for the Lakers.
He stabilized the position, making plays on defense and seemingly always making the right decision when the ball was in his hands. His basketball IQ – paired with the likes of LeBron James, Anthony Davis and other veterans like Dwight Howard and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – transitioned a rather so-so bench into one that produced for L.A.
Rondo’s stats throughout the 2020 postseason look like this: 8.9 ppg, 6.6 apg, 4.3 rpg, and 1.4 spg. Well-rounded as usual. But when you take a closer look, Rondo played a key part in the Laker victories.
His plus-minus throughout the playoffs was +2.75 on average throughout his 16 total games of the tournament. But, in the 12 Laker victories where Rondo competed, his plus-minus on average was +6.2, furthermore proving that his impact was felt in each of the 12 victories the Lakers collected on their way to winning their 17th championship, tying the Celtics for the most in NBA history.
Not to mention, he set a playoff record for the most assists ever recorded off the bench in a postseason (105), and yet he didn’t even play in the Lakers’ first five playoff games due to an injury.
How about his performance in a close-out Game 6 of the NBA Finals? Rondo went 6-for-6 from the field in the first half, scoring 13 points to help the Lakers build their 28-point lead, which put the finishing touches on a series that lasted longer than it probably should have.
Even Rondo knows how good he is in the playoffs, especially when having the opportunity to do it with King James in L.A.
“If I got myself on the court, along with LeBron James,” Rondo said. “I felt that it would be impossible for teams to beat us in (a) four-game series.”