Lakers emerge from the bubble three months later as champions

Dalton Hartmann, Staff Writer

The Los Angeles Lakers are your 2020 NBA champions.  After defeating the Miami Heat 106-93 in Game 6, they took the series 4-2. This is the 17th championship for the Lakers, tying them with their long standing rivals, the Boston Celtics, for the most all-time. The road to this point was not easy for the Lakers — rather, it was full of misfortune and setbacks — but that is what makes this championship so special. 

The Lakers started their season a bit shakily; with the introduction of so many new players such as Anthony Davis and Dwight Howard, this was expected. The Lakers found their footing, however, and became the first seed for the majority of the year and were seen as a favorite to win the finals by many. But as the Lakers began to hit their stride, tragedy struck. One of the Lakers’ all-time greats, Kobe Bryant, as well as eight others including his daughter, passed away in a horrible helicopter accident. The loss of Kobe affected the entire NBA, but none more so than the Lakers. As time went on and the Lakers began to play games again, there was something different about them. Members of the team were very open about how they are no longer playing for themselves, but instead for the legacy of Kobe. With this newfound motivation, the Lakers became even stronger than they once were.

As the season continued, the Lakers only got better and better, but once again their road to the championship was halted. Thursday, March 12, is regarded by many as “the day the sports world stopped,”  as all leagues were postponed until further notice due to COVID-19. The pandemic would be the next roadblock in this Laker team’s journey, and it proved to be a big one. The 2020 season was postponed until further notice, and while we all quarantined, the NBA’s 2020 season was left on hold. As time went on, the idea of a “bubble” where the games could take place became increasingly popular. With the introduction of the “bubble,” the NBA immediately started its postseason. The Lakers said goodbye to their family and friends as they headed into the “bubble” for their chance at a ring. 

The Lakers were the first seed heading into the playoffs, which pinned them up against the eighth-seeded Portland Trail Blazers in the first round. This ended in a 4-1 series win for the Lakers.  The Rockets were the next challenge for the Lakers, but the results would be the same:  4-1 series win for the Lakers. In the Western conference finals, the Lakers faced off against the Denver Nuggets. The Nuggets had just come back from being down 3-1 to the LA Clippers, who were many people’s pick to win the championship. The Nuggets put up a fight, but the Lakers overwhelmed the Nuggets defense with their volatile scoring, winning the series yet again 4-1.

With the win against the Nuggets,  the Lakers had made it to the NBA finals,  where they faced the Eastern conference champions, the Miami Heat. The Heat are a team that many saw winning their first few games, but were expected to fizzle out when it came to closing out a series. However, the Heat proved everyone wrong and showed that you don’t need a team full of stars to win games. The Heat entered the championship led by Jimmy Butler, a star who is seen as problematic for team chemistry, a roster of veteran players such as Andre Iguadala and Jae Crowder, and a group of young up-and-comers in Tyler Herro and Bam Adebayo. While this team had playmakers all over the court, the Lakers were equally stacked. The Lakers were led by all-time great Lebron James and superstar player Anthony Davis as well as an abundance of talent such as Dwight Howard, Kyle Kuzma, and Rajon Rondo. With both teams having loaded roasters, this series was shaping up to be a good one. 

To start the finals off, the Lakers won the first two games, led by Lebron and Davis who both had 30+ point games, which proved to be too much for the Heat’s defense. In Game 3, the Heat bounced back, aided by Jimmy Butler’s 40 points. Even with Butler and the bench scoring huge points, however, the Heat were unable to stop the scoring threat of LA’s duo. Down 3-1 after 4, the Heat looked to make a comeback after game 5, which they won 111-108. With every game being an elimination for the Heat after losing three, the Heat played as hard as they could, but they were unable to stop the Lakers. The Lakers’ dominance on both sides of the ball during Game 6 would end the series at 4-2, making the Lakers the NBA 2020 season champions. The Heat gave us some amazing moments through the playoffs, but the Laker stardom in James and Davis proved to be too much. Lebron James and Anthony Davis  both averaged 25+ PPG through playoffs, the only other duo ever to do so besides Shaq and Kobe. The Finals MVP award went to Lebron, making it his 4th finals MVP as well as 4th championship. After winning the championship, the Lakers dedicated their trophy to the late Kobe Bryant for all that he had done for this team. 

The path the Lakers took to get to their championship was a long one full of trials and tribulations, but they finished it with a ring. If the Lakers were unable to use the passing of Kobe to push themselves harder, then things may have ended differently. While this season will have an asterisk next to it due to COVID-19, the 2020 Lakers’ journey is one of the greatest sports stories of all time.