Robert Stevens, General Assignments Reporter
Basketball immortality for the 2019-2020 Los Angeles Lakers. “Laker Nation” can once again celebrate with utter joy after winning its 17th National Basketball Association Championship against the Miami Heat, 106-93, tying them with the Boston Celtics for the most all-time.
The journey for this team was not for the faint of heart. One that began with the trade for Anthony Davis prior to the season, continued to the passing of Kobe Bryant, then to the COVID-19 pandemic and bubble, to a fight against racial injustice, and now concluding with hoisting the Larry O’Brien Championship trophy.
Finishing off their regular season at 52-19, the Lakers had their toughest opponents in the playoffs. They would beat the red hot Damien Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers 4-1 after losing game one in the first round.
History repeated itself in round two as they beat James Harden and the Houston Rockets. Next up, they had to fight through the Denver Nuggets young core winning 4-1. All of this led to the Miami Heat who took them to six. All formidable foes with players that had “Laker Nation” on the edge of their seats. Whether it be Damien Lillard, James Harden, Jamall Murray, or Jimmy Butler, the Lakers had their fair share of diversity.
“We have a Ph.D. in adversity, I can tell you that much,” Vogel said. “But I am so **** proud of this team. We have had fun since day one. We had the talent. We just had to focus on the work and tie all the strings together and play together.”
One can’t talk about this most recent championship without mentioning the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player, LeBron James. Through the Finals, he averaged a stat line well deserving of 29.8 points per game, 11.8 rebounds per game, 8.5 assists per game while shooting 59 percent from the field, 42 percent from beyond the arch, and 67 percent from the free-throw line.
When people argue about who is the greatest of all time, rings are one of the most important things brought to the table. Now, James has achieved his fourth NBA Championship in one of the NBA’s toughest seasons in the history of the game. A lot of people lack respect for his greatness for the fact that he was 3-6 in the finals prior to this. Nobody can argue the greatness of “King James” after this one.
“We just want our respect,” James said. “Rob wants his respect. Coach Vogel wants his respect. The organization wants their respect. Lakers Nation wants their respect. And I want my **** respect, too.”
This season has its fair share of emotional implications for the Lakers. The biggest reason truly was the loss of the all-time great in Bryant. This entire season was dedicated to making a man many deemed a hero of Los Angeles proud. And they did it by finishing the job.
If you don’t understand the reference, here is the background. After the second game of the 2009 NBA Finals, a reporter asked the “Black Mamba” why he wasn’t smiling after being up 2-0 against the Orlando Magic. His next line would echo all the way into the 2020 NBA Finals.
“What’s there to be happy about,” Bryant questioned. “Job’s not finished.”
It is safe to say that the moment the Louis Vuitton case rolled onto the court following the win, the Mamba was proud from above with his late daughter Gianna by his side. The Lakers did everything in their power to dedicate this season to him. Whether it be through grand memorials or the “Mamba” jerseys, Laker Nation knew this season was for him. The players on this team knew that they carried him and Gianna every step of the process.
“Ever since the tragedy, all we wanted to do was this for him,” Power Forward Anthony Davis said. “I know he is looking down on us, proud of us. He was a big brother to all of us. We did this for him.”
In order to bring a championship home, there is a puzzle that must be perfectly placed together. Nothing can be out of line. For the Lakers, the pieces fit just right. As a member of Laker Nation, we can stand tall knowing two things; we are world champions and the job is finished.