By Aidan Sheedy, Staff Writer
After LeBron James missed the playoffs for the first time since 2005 in 2019, the Los Angeles Lakers knew they had to make some big offseason moves. On June 15 of last year, they acquired the biggest fish available, when general manager Rob Pelinka finalized a trade that sent Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, and three first-round picks– one of which was the 4th overall pick, to the New Orleans Pelicans in exchange for superstar Anthony “The Brow” Davis. Davis, an NBA All-Star for seven of his eight seasons, was a key piece toward the building of a championship team.
Despite the Davis acquisition, at the start of what would be an abbreviated season, the Lakers were not viewed by sports analysts as number one. That spot belonged to the team they shared their arena with– the Los Angeles Clippers, who acquired Kawhi Leanord and Paul George in the offseason.
After a strong start to the season, in the first month of 2020, the Laker family absorbed a brutal blow when Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna tragically died in a helicopter crash on January 26. The Lakers, organization, its players, coaches, fans, and community were left in shock and disbelief at the news of the crash. On March 11, Lakers coach Frank Vogel, said Kobe and Gianna Bryant “guided this team the whole year” and the victory “couldn’t be any more special.” Since then, the Lakers have dedicated this season to Kobe and Gianna Bryant.
With Kobe on their minds, the Lakers’ new dynamic duo of James and Davis proved to be effective after finishing the season with a conference-best record of 52-19. As the 1 seed in the playoffs, the Lakers first test was in the form of James Harden and the Houston Rockets. They fell to Houston in Game 1, but kept calm and won the series in five games. Showing consistency, LA lost game 1 of round two against the Denver Nuggets, but one of the most thrilling moments of the playoffs came in Game 2.
Proceeding a Denver foul, the Lakers had the ball with 2.1 seconds left in the game, down 103-102. The Nuggets’ defense could not hold on, as Anthony Davis made a three-pointer that won the game in a buzzer-beater 105-103. Davis said during the postgame press conference that, “when I left New Orleans, I wanted to be able to compete for an NBA title.” As history often repeats itself, LeBron and the Lakers won the next three, advancing to the finals in five games for the second consecutive round.
The finals were a thrilling matchup for all basketball fans, as LA faced off against James’ former team, the Miami Heat. The Heat showed resilience, forcing a Game 6, but ultimately could not handle Los Angeles. For the 17th time in franchise history, tying the Celtics for most all-time, the Los Angeles Lakers are NBA champions. LA made it look easy– taking only 21 games to win the needed 16 for a title.
35-year old LeBron James captured his fourth NBA title and fourth Finals MVP award. He also became the first player in NBA history to win three championships with three different teams. James capped off another incredible finals performance by adding to his playoff triple-double record with 28 points, 14 rebounds, and 10 assists in the championship-clinching game 6.
Receiving the award, James said, “for me to be part of such a historical franchise is an unbelievable feeling: not only for myself, but for my teammates, for the organization, for the coaches, and for the trainers as well.” As well as the people, James spoke on the reputation of the Lakers franchise. He said, “Coach Vogel wants his respect, the organization wants their respect, Laker Nation wants the respect, and I want my damn respect too.”
Featured Photo: Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images