This column seeks to cover significant current events in the sporting world as it navigates the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The Los Angeles Lakers. After going 52-19 in the regular season and cruising past each of their opponents in the playoffs with three consecutive 4-1 routs, the Lakers took home their 17th trophy in franchise history, beating the Miami Heat four games to two.
The Heat, who had gone 44-29 in regular season play and only dropped three games in the postseason on their way to a conference championship and a spot in the finals, fell behind early and could not keep up, losing game six to seal the deal.
The Lebron-led Lakers jumped out to an early two-game lead, winning the games 116-98 and 124-114. They then dropped game three to the Heat 115-104 before bouncing back in game four, 102-96. Miami fought back to force a game six, winning game five by three, 111-108. The Lakers then dominated the Heat defensively in game six, only allowing 36 points in the first half to go up 64-36 and winning 106-93 to clinch the title.
Lebron James earned MVP honors in the finals for the fourth time in 17 years after averaging 29.8 points per game, 11.8 rebounds, 8.5 assists and a 59.1 percent shooting percentage over the six games.
This championship marks the fourth championship Lebron has won, his first two coming with the Miami Heat in 2012 and 2013. His third championship was won with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016. He also became the first player in NBA history to win Finals MVP with at least three separate franchises. In an interview after the game, Lebron went on to say that this championship was about respect. Not only for him, although that definitely was a part of it, but for the Lakers as well.
This win was also history-making for the Lakers organization, as they won their first championship since they won back-to-back championships in 2009 and 2010. This also marks their 17th overall title, tying the Boston Celtics for the most in NBA history. After the start of the decade, the Lakers organization fell into shambles and has been trying to rebuild since. Stability within the leadership, followed by savvy hiring of coaching and smart decisions for player personnel helped lead this team, which just a few years prior was a wreck, into a championship winning team.
It was also an emotional win for the Lakers, as many players said in interviews that the season was defined and guided by the tragic death of longtime Laker Kobe Bryant, along with his daughter and seven others back in January. To the organization, the players and the fans, this championship did not soothe over the sting of the loss but, rather, was a way to build upon Kobe’s legacy. Laker’s president, Rob Pelinka, was quoted on nba.com as saying, “Kobe and Gianna have guided this team all year. For us to be able to win this championship doesn’t take away from the sting of the loss. What it does is allow us to add to their legacy.” Pelinka continued, “This Lakers’ championship of 2020 is to build on that legacy and honor them. The moment couldn’t be any more special.” Kobe’s legacy and loss will continue to hang over the NBA for years to come, and the Lakers are stepping up and embracing it rather than running from it.
One of the more surprising statistics for this series comes not on the court but off it, and that is zero. Specifically, zero positive coronavirus results. In this time of panic and uncertainty in the midst of a pandemic, for any organization to have zero positive tests is a feat in and of itself. Just take a look at other professional and collegiate sports, such as football, in which teams have had to postpone games and big-name stars have tested positive. One such example is star quarterback for the New England Patriots who tested positive a few weeks back, or maybe the Tennessee Titans, who had several personnel and players test positive, forcing them to postpone their game against the Houston Texans.
With the season over for everyone now, the bubble can now safely collapse as both the Lakers and Heat leave and return home. More so, teams and fans alike can now reminisce on this past season, one of the weirdest in history, while looking forward to what the future might hold for themselves and for their favorite organizations. This season, plagued by plagues, social justice issues, injuries and more is now officially in the books. But it will not soon leave our memories even as we prepare for next year. Will the Lakers stand atop again next year, or will there be a new team taking the throne? Only time will tell. Life is fickle, and we can only watch it as it passes.