After a long 10 years, the L.A. Lakers have won the NBA Championship for the 17th time, tying the Boston Celtics with the most championship wins in NBA history. The Lakers clinched their title on Oct. 11 as they beat the Miami Heat with a score of 106 – 93, winning the series 4 – 2.
This season was full of doubts for the Lakers as to whether or not they were even contenders to win the Championship. The Lakers originally were not even predicted to make it to the finals, let alone win, according to many analysts. ESPN predicted that the L.A. Clippers would win it, with 54.5 percent of experts expecting them to win. The Milwaukee Bucks came in second on the predictions list with 36.4 percent of votes, followed by the Philadelphia 76er’s with 6.1 percent. None of those teams made it past the second round.
Then, there were doubts as to whether or not the Lakers gave up too much when trading for Anthony Davis. The Lakers traded three players and four future first-round picks to the New Orleans Pelicans in exchange for Anthony Davis. At first, people wondered if the Lakers gave up too much on the trade, as Davis was seen as an injury-prone center and has only ever led the Pelecas to two playoff appearances.
However, Laker management and upper executives knew what they were doing, and while it was a big bet, it was a bet that gave a perfect return. Davis averaged 26.1 points, 9.3 rebs, and 3.2 assists throughout the regular season and, during the Playoffs, averaging 27.7, 9.7, and 3.5, respectively — some of the best overall numbers he has had in his career. Ultimately, he helped the Lakers win the Finals, as his chemistry with LeBron James helped give the Lakers the 1 – 2 punch they were looking for.
Many thought LeBron James came to L.A. to take it easy — to produce movies and television shows, to just stop competing — but he heard all of those who assumed wrong. LeBron entered his 17th year at the beginning of the season, but it did not seem to be his 17th season from the performances he was putting on. LeBron averaged 25.3 points, 7.8 rebs, and 10.2 assists — a career-high for assists. He also placed second in MVP votes and felt insulted that he only received 16 first-place votes, though that seemed to only drive LeBron even more, as he would average 27.7 points, 11 rebs, and 8.5 assists during the finals. He would soon win Finals MVP for the fourth time in his career, joining Micheal Jordan as the only players to win four or more Finals MVPs and four or more regular-season MVPs. LeBron would also keep his promise that he made to all Laker fans after reviving a season-ending injury last year, and as the Lakers would be eliminated from playoff contention for a sixth straight season. Lebron said, “Believe me! Promise Laker nation the spell won’t last much longer! I swear.” He made good on his promise, delivering the Lakers their first title in 10 years.
The Lakers would end the regular season at the number one seed with a record of 52 – 19. As they moved into the playoffs, they faced the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round. The Blazers were one the hottest teams in the NBA bubble, and many considered them to be the best 8 seed to ever make the playoffs. Before the series started, many thought the Blazers to be the winners of the series due to the fact that they had one of the best backcourt duos in Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. Many asked who in the Lakers would guard them, so it seems as if they would have an easy time scoring. In-game one, they did, as they would beat the Lakers, taking a 1 – 0 series lead. The Internet went ballistic, predicting the Blazers would sweep the Lakers. However, in the next four games, the Lakers would blow out the Blazers, as they were able to complete the gentleman sweep and win 4 – 1 in the first round.
The next round saw the Lakers face the Houston Rockets, who beat the Oklahoma City Thunder in seven games. The Rockets came into the series as strong contenders to knock the Lakers off in this series for their use of the small ball and also for their backcourt duo James Harden, scoring champion and an MVP, and Russel Westbrook, as a previous MVP. Just like the previous series, the Rockets took game one in a dominant performance, winning 112 – 97. After a few adjustments to the Laker lineup in order to counter the Houston small ball, the series came out just like the first as the Lakers would win the next four games in a dominating fashion winning the series 4 – 1.
The Western Conference Finals saw the Lakers matchup with the Denver Nuggets, who pulled a miracle against the L.A. Clippers as they were able to come back from a 3 – 1 deficit and win in seven games. The Lakers would start off this series different from the other two, as they won the first two games — winning game two from a buzzer-beater from Anthony Davis. Then, they would lose game three but would win the next two, once again winning the series 4 – 1.
The Lakers made it back to the NBA finals for the first time in 10 years, this time with a new star duo who has been dominant throughout the season. However, they now faced the Miami Heat, James’ old team, who helped him win his first two championships. This time, though, the Heat were led by Jimmy Butler, who was spectacular throughout the playoffs, averaging 22.2 points, 6.5 rebs, and 6 assists. The Lakers would take a two-game lead as they blew out the Heat in game one and would win a close game two. They would lose game three, as Butler would have a 40-point triple-double, winning 115 – 104. The Lakers would take game four, which was a nail-biter throughout, taking 102 – 96. The Lakers would then have a 3 – 1 lead and, going into game five, they were feeling confident that they could close it out, as they were going to wear the Mamba Jerseys, which was to honor the late great Kobe Bryant.
However, the Heat would have other plans, as they narrowly won game five 111 – 108; Butler had a 35-point triple-double. Many Laker fans were in an uproar as the Lakers lost the chance to win in the Mamba Jerseys and honor Kobe, who seemed to be the main driving force behind the Lakers’ motivation to win a championship. Everyone on the Lakers knew that it was what it was, though, and it was time to look to the next game. Going into game six, the Lakers made a surprise move with the starting lineup as fan-favorite Alex Caruso was named the starter over Dwight Howard. It paid off. The Lakers would take total command of this game and win the Lakers’ 17th championship.
Overall, this could be seen as one of the hardest seasons to win a championship, as every team had to be in the NBA bubble and be isolated for three months, away from family. Not to mention the things this country is going through a high-stakes election and social justice being presided more now than ever before. Still, the Lakers were able to take focus and look towards their goal for a championship as well as use their platform to spread awareness for the country and for those who had the decency to listen to them. Congratulations to the L.A. Lakers for winning the NBA championship, and hope for many more.
Feature image: Courtesy of AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill