By Terrance Turner
Oct. 11, 2020 (Updated Nov. 20, 2020)
The Los Angeles Lakers have won the NBA Championship. The Lakers won Game 6 after a commanding performance, defeating the Miami Heat 106-93. This is the 17th championship for the franchise (tied for the most all-time). The team reacted with jubilance to the win, with player J.R. Smith shedding his shirt and celebrating with teammates:
The team led consistently throughout the game’s fourth quarter, leading by over 20 points. They led by as much as 30 points during the first half, according to ESPN. It was a major bounce back after a disappointing loss in the Game 5, and it capped a memorable and hard-fought series. LeBron James won NBA Finals MVP after rallying the Lakers to win the final series 4-2. James logged a triple-double — 28 points, 14 rebounds, and 10 assists, per ESPN — to help power the Lakers past a scrappy, challenging Miami Heat.
LeBron James is the first player ever to win a championship with three different teams.
James won back-to-back rings with the Miami Heat in 2012 and 2013. The next year, he returned to his hometown team, the Cleveland Cavaliers. The move drew much attention, given James’s highly publicized (and sharply criticized) decision to leave the Cavaliers in 2010. But after winning back-to-back championships in Miami, James came back home. And in the 2016 NBA Finals, he powered the Cavs back from a 3-1 deficit to defeat the Warriors. The Golden State Warriors were a “superteam” — a juggernaut that had won 73 games (!!!) in the regular season. But James and Cavs somehow prevailed, winning the NBA Championship. It was Cleveland’s first pro sports title since 1964. It was James’ third ring. This is his fourth.
But this time was different.
The championship has a different impact this year, for many reasons. But a major reason that this win means so much is because of the Lakers’ all-time leading scorer. In a chaotic, grueling year that saw the heartbreaking loss of Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, the Lakers winning the title was the only appropriate way for this NBA season to end.
“I can not let him down,” Lakers player Anthony Davis said of Bryant, to whom he was close. The Lakers dedicated the O’Brien Trophy to Bryant, who perished along with his daughter in a helicopter crash in January. After a tragic, difficult year for Lakers fans, the win is a much-needed balm. But it also was a rebound for the Lakers after missing the playoffs last season. In his postgame interview, James stated that “the organization want their respect, Laker Nation want their respect — and I want my damn respect, too.”
The win has added significance because of the context of this remarkable year. The team played three months in “the bubble” — a sprawling Disney complex in Orlando, Florida — because of the coronavirus. (Nobody was allowed to leave the area; there was regular testing for COVID-19.) The NBA Finals came after a historic boycott: the players all sat out their games in response to the near-fatal shooting of Jacob Blake. It was a year marked by active protests by NBA players after the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor. James was particularly vocal about the treatment of Black people and the fear they experience:
The Lakers had hoped to win wearing Bryant’s “Black Mamba” jerseys, but lost Game 5 after taking a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals. Davis told a reporter later that the loss motivated them to play even harder: “It made us come out even more aggressive, even more powerful,” Davis said. This is Anthony Davis’ first NBA Championship. It is also the first NBA championship for 35-year-old Lakers center Dwight Howard. After 16 years in the league, this is Howard’s first NBA ring. He grew emotional after the win. “Don’t ever give up on your dreams,” he urged his followers. “I swear to God, don’t never give up on yourself.”
UPDATE: Dwight Howard has agreed to a one-year, $2.6 million deal with the Philadelphia 76ers, according to ESPN. Howard’s agent confirmed the news to the network. This is a surprising development, given that just hours ago Howard indicated he would be staying in L.A:
According to Yahoo! Sports’ Chris Haynes, Howard was under the impression that he had a $3 million offer from the Lakers. But Haynes quoted sources within the organization that said the offer was merely a “deal concept”. Haynes wrote: “Lakers management informed Howard’s agent that they had to consult with team ownership and seek approval before making an official offer, sources said. Howard waited for nearly an hour without hearing back, sources said.” Meanwhile, the 76ers were aggressively courting Howard and managed to sign him when no Lakers offer arose. Significantly, the 76er’s new head of basketball operations is Daryl Morey, who was general manager of the Houston Rockets when Howard signed with them. (Howard played for the Rockets from 2013-2016.)
Meanwhile, the Lakers just agreed to a two-year deal with center/power forward Montrezl Harrell. The deal is worth $19 million, according to CBS Sports. Harrell was previously on the Los Angeles Clippers, where he logged a career-high 19.6 points per game last season. In September, he was voted NBA Sixth Man of the Year (awarded to a player who did outstanding work as a substitute). Interestingly, Harrell also played for the Rockets during the 2015 and 2016 seasons before being traded to the Clippers.