Lakers summon showtime spirit to seal 17th Championship
Training camp for the 2019/20 NBA season began over a year ago and since that moment the Lakers have been collectively building towards the same goal and last night they achieved it. Their first NBA Title since 2010 and their 17th overall, to cap the longest season in league history in style.
The Lakers sealed their 17th championship at a canter following a dominant second quarter display which saw them lead by 28 points at the half. There question marks over how much more Jimmy Butlers body had to give after an unbelievable game five performance in which he play over 47 minutes. After some lazy defensive plays and a missed free throw early on you could see Jimmy had nothing left to give and the Lake-Show took advantage, eventually running out 103-96 winners to win in six games.
How we got here:
When Lebron James made the move to L.A. back in the summer of 2018 he made a promise to the Lakers hierarchy that he "would bring the Lakers back to where they belong". After a first season full of frustration and injury, it seemed like bulls**t from a superstar past his best but the Lakers kept faith and pulled out all the stops to deliver Lebron an elite no.2, enter Anthony Davis.
The Lakers now had the platform to succeed and anything less than greatness would not be accepted, despite adjusting to a large roster shake up and a new Head Coach. In the eyes of many, the Lakers did not have the best team in the league but in the past two off seasons they had brought in Lebron James and Anthony Davis, a 17th Championship was the minimum expected. As the cliche goes, great players know how to play together, and it reigned true once more as the Lebron and AD instantly struck up a beautiful rapport on the court.
After an opening night defeat to the Clippers, it was deemed the new look Lakers weren't even the best team in Los Angeles let alone the NBA, which Kawhi Leonard effectively sealing his place as the best player in the league(following his 2019 title win with Toronto) with a dominant display. The challenge had been laid down to Frank Vogel and his Laker team and the answered the only way they knew how, pure domination. The Lakers were 36-10 on January 25th when the franchise was hit by tragedy.
On a flight home from Philadelphia, the players, coaching staff and hierarchy learned the news of the passing of NBA & Laker Legend, Kobe Bryant. Kobe and his 13 year old daughter Gianna died after being involved in a helicopter crash. This unexpected tragedy struck the Lakers at its core and left the team distraught, majority having played with or admired Kobe during his playing career. It stuck with them and gave them a purpose to continue the grind through the rest of the season, the four month break due to Covid-19 and inside the bubble. It was no longer about just being the best, the Lakers were now playing for Kobe, Gianna and the entire Bryant family.
Following the mid-season break enforced by coronavirus, the Lakers eventually finished the shortened season with a record of 52-19 to top the West. Lebron leading the league in assists (10.2 APG) to go along with 25.3 PPG while Davis was an animal on both ends of the court, finishing second in voting for defensive player of the year and averaging 26.1 PPG. L.A. were returning to the playoffs for the first time since 2013 but that was just phase one of their mission.
The Clippers were still favourites to win the Western Conference heading into the playoffs with many tipping the Lakers to be upset in round one by the Trail Blazers. After a dismal game one performance, many thought the Lakers were done but you never bet against LEBRON. The Lakers bounced back in game two, winning four on the trot to seal the series in five games, they repeated this feat in round two against the small ball Rockets and again in the Western Conference finals against the Denver Nuggets, who had come from 3-1 down in the other conference semi-final to beat the Clippers in seven games. Lebron and AD had led the Lakers back to the promised land, the conference finals. Only four wins stood between them and a 17th title.
Standing in front of them were Lebron's former team, the Miami Heat, the boys from south beach were the feel good story of the playoffs and had no plans to bow down before The King. The Lakers comfortably took games 1&2 with Anthony Davis dominating on both ends, hitting 30+ points in both games but the Heat refused to roll over and took game three thanks to an all conquering performance from Jimmy Butler (40 pts, 11 rebs, 13 assists). The Lakers still had a job to do and after they jumped to a 3-1 series lead thanks to 102-96 win in game four it was time for the JIMMY BUCKETS show once again. The Heat forward dropped 35/12/11, playing all but 49 seconds, to delay the Lakers coronation once again despite 40 points from Lebron James.
The Lakers were angry and they came onto the court in game 6 possessed, knowing they should've had the series wrapped up long ago. Heat President, Pat Riley, was head coach of the L.A Lakers team which dominated basketball during the 1980's with their showtime offence and the Lakers summoned the spirit of the Riley led Lakers to secure the title in style leading by 20+ points for the more than half of the game, Dwight Howard even sunk a 3-ball, eventually winning by 13 points. It was a sad way for Miami's season to end but just like in 2016 with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Lebron was true to his word, the Lakers have returned to the summit of NBA basketball.
It was a traumatic year for the Lakers, with the loss of Kobe and the impact of Covid-19 , but they never lost focus. There was only one way for their season to finish and that was with the Larry O'Brien trophy in hand. Not only had it been seven years since the Lakers were in the playoffs but even after acquiring a superstar duo in LBJ & AD they were now supposedly the the no.2 in Los Angeles, but when you question greatness, greatness always answers empathically.
The Lakers finished the season 52-19 to top the West they then went 16-5 in the playoffs to become World Championship, they had arguably the best player in the league in Alex Caruso, Lebron James and the best two way player in the league in Anthony Davis. It was a spectacular year long quest for the Lakers but it has finished with perfection.
The Lakers-Nation expects greatness, Lebron James is greatness but you are nothing in L.A unless you produce success. James was aware of this from the minute he agreed to join the historic franchise back in 2018 and made it his mission to put the Lakers back on top, in doing so he averaged 29.8 PPG 11.8 RPG & 8.5 APG to claim Finals MVP. The King felt disrespected when he was not voted league MVP, the award instead going to Giannis Antetokounmpo, in his speech after winning his fourth finals MVP, he demanded respect for both his team and himself in a clear message to the league, the King ain't finished yet.