Over the weekend, the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Miami Heat by a score of 106-93 in game 6 of the NBA finals – clinching the franchise’s 17th title. The championship win comes on the back end on what has been perhaps the most memorable season in NBA history. Among the China-Hong Kong incident, the COVID-19 league shut down and the league’s role in social protest, the NBA has had one eventful season. With the league ultimately settling itself within a multi-month, pandemic-proof bubble in Orlando, the Lakers got the job done and will leave Florida with the Larry O’Brien trophy in hand.
For Lakers fans across the country, this championship will hold an especially significant place in the franchise's storied trophy cabinet. With the tragic passing of franchise icon Kobe Bryant in January of this year, this season took on a new meaning in Los Angeles. The Lakers began not only playing for themselves but also playing for the memory of their late idol. They broke every huddle during the playoffs by saying “Mamba” – the famous nickname of Bryant.
After winning the championship, Lakers forward Lebron James paid tribute to Kobe in his postgame remarks. James stated this title was for him and how he hoped Bryant was looking down proudly at his team. Back home outside Staples Center, celebratory crowds repeatedly chanted Kobe’s name, finding a way to pay their own tribute to the Lakers legend.
This trophy also represents validation for so many individuals within the Lakers organization. First and foremost, the biggest winner here is Lebron James. A man who has become accustomed to very vocal hate throughout his career, that trend did not end when he took his talents to Staples Center. James’ arrival in L.A. was treated as a retirement tour by some. They said he only came to star in movies and build his entertainment industry stock. These doubts came to a head after his first season in purple and gold saw him struggle with injuries and fail to make the playoffs.
Fast forward to now and Lebron has not only added another a ring for himself, but also another Finals MVP. Both pieces of hardware were well -earned as he acted as the centerpiece of a team that largely dominated during the playoffs. James not only performed well individually, but he also made his teammates significantly better. Consistently drawing defenses, Lebron shined in his role as a distributor within L.A.'s offense.
Another big winner of this playoff run – Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka. Pelinka’s run as general manager has not been a smooth one by any means. Back in 2017, he was tasked with restoring the Lakers upon their pedestal above the rest of the league. This was by no means an easy task; since Kobe’s retirement, the Lakers have been one of the more dysfunctional teams in the NBA. Pelinka’s decision to hire Frank Vogul as head coach last year was met with plenty of scrutiny from fans and pundits alike.
However, Pelinka ended up proving his doubters wrong and successfully revamped the Lakers into the basketball juggernaut they were meant to be. He first succeeded in bringing Lebron to L.A. where he would finally have an opportunity to compete in the western conference. After the collapse of the 2018-2019 season, Pelinka succeeded masterfully in cleaning house and renovating the core of his squad. The trade with New Orleans for Anthony Davis orchestrated by the GM was the personnel move that pushed the Lakers into title contenders.
This title has been a long time coming for Los Angeles. The Lakers have spent much of the past decade in limbo stumbling from losing-season to losing-season. With a new ring on its way and the core of this team likely to remain intact, the Lakers can now look forward to the 2020s with the same eye for dominance they had 20 years ago entering the 2000s.
This is the opinion of Nick Rossi, a senior AIMS major from Orange County, California. Tweet comments to @LALoyolan or email comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.