July 1, 2018 things took a turn for the BEST in Laker Nation. The Chosen One, the King, the 3-time NBA Champion LeBron James silently announced that he was joining the Los Angeles Lakers. A guy who once shook up the sports world with televised decision, who then 4 years later penned a heartfelt letter to Sports Illustrated to announce that he was coming back home went to Hollywood with a simple Press release and a tweet from Klutch Sports. After Kobe Bryant’s finale with 60 points, Laker fans were hoping for a bright future. Drafting Brandon Ingram, and Lonzo Ball, one could hope that this young core that included Julius Randle, Josh Hart, and Kyle Kuzma would develop into the same star studded cast that OKC or Golden State drafted. Landing the King gave fans hope that it was only a manner of time before the team raised their 17th banner.
When the 2018 season began, there were some struggles, even LeBron had to remind himself, that he knew what he was getting himself into. Then, as things started to gel and the Lakers began to have chemistry, LeBron got hurt. The Lakers would eventually fall out of the playoff picture. And for the first time in 9 years, LeBron James would not be making an NBA Finals appearance. And if this wasn’t bad enough, Magic Johnson, the man who recruited LeBron to L.A. suddenly departed from the team’s front office. Was this Los Angeles experiment a mistake?
During the offseason, the Lakers shook up a few things. Luke Walton was OUT as head coach and Frank Vogel, a man LeBron stopped from making two NBA Finals, was in. But the move that changed the course was trading Ball, Hart, and Kuzma to New Orleans for all-star forward, Anthony Davis. Suddenly, the Lakers are championship contenders. However, there was one more wish, one more free agent they were pursuing. Two time NBA Finals MVP, Kawhi Leonard. After a few days of speculation, and rumors flying through the roof, late Friday evening, Leonard announced he would be joining the rival Los Angeles Clippers. But he wasn’t coming alone, as the Clippers acquired all-star Paul George from the Oklahoma City Thunder. Book it, Lakers vs Clippers in the Western Conference Finals. Every NBA talking head said this. The only thing they disagreed on was who would win.
The 2019-2020 season was much better than the previous. LeBron and AD found their chemistry despite dropping their 1st two meetings with the Clippers. But then tragedy struck. The unthinkable. A nightmare we all wish we could wake up from. The greatest Laker ever, Kobe Bryant tragically died in plane crash with 8 other victims including his daughter, Gianna. If this wasn’t sad enough, the night before LeBron passed Kobe on the all-time scoring list and Kobe’s final tweet was congratulating LeBron for moving the game forward.
Do it for Kobe. It was something Lakers fans echoed. Everyone knows that the expectations when you put on the purple and gold is to win Championships. They don’t hang division banners for a reason. Less than 2 months later, the season was put on hold due to COVID-19. During this break, the country was hit with the racial pandemic as police brutality was brought to light after the deaths of George Floyd and Breanna Taylor. People even questioned if the NBA should resume.
After careful consideration, the NBA created a bubble where players, personnel, and reporters would report to Orlando to resume the season. Picking up where the season left off, the Lakers secured the number 1 seed for the first time since 2010, the last time they held the Larry O’Brien. Now the expectations are set and they have one job, win the title. 1st they were met with a red hot Trail Blazers team. And with the Blazers stealing game 1 thanks to Damian Miller activating Dame time, critics began to question if they were even ready. No problem, Lakers went on to win 4 straight. Next up, the Houston Rockets, who were in a battle that went 7 games with the Thunder. After they stole Game 1, the Lakers went small, and you guessed it, Lakers would win the next 4. On the other side they wait for the winner of the Clippers and Denver Nuggets. The much anticipated Battle of Los Angeles was one game away as the Clippers held a 3-1 lead. Magic Johnson even tweeted his excitement for the Battle of L.A. The Nuggets had other plans. Just as they did in the 1st round, they overcame a 3-1 lead and defeated the Clippers to advance to the conference Finals. The Lakers held up their end of the deal, the Clippers didn’t. After a blowout in Game 1, fans thought a sweep would be the outcome. But, with their Mamba jerseys on their backs in Game 2, down in the 4th quarter, AD hit the game-winning shot to give them a 2-0 lead and making them 3-0 with those jerseys on. The Lakers would go on to win this series 4-1 and earn the Finals, making this LeBron’s 10th trip.
With the goal 4 wins away, the Lakers waited to see who their opponents would be. Would it be their arch nemsis, the Boston Celtics, or would it be LeBron’s former team the Miami Heat. After 6 games, the gritty 5th seeded-Heat led by Jimmy Butler advanced setting up LeBron vs his former coach Eric Spolstra and GM, Pat Riley. In Game 1, the Lakers destroyed the Heat. And if that wasn’t bad enough, their lost two key players, Bam Adebayo and Goran Dragic. Game 3 came as a wake up call, as the Heat led by Butler’s 40 points would win. Adebayo returned in Game 4, but LeBron, AD bounced back to put the Lakers within 1 of title number 17.
Perhaps a premature celebration before Game 5, the Lakers fell short after Danny Green missed the game winning 3. Going in to Game 6 in a almost must win situation, the Lakers locked in and ready bounce back and blow out the Miami heat.
And it is official, LeBron James has etched himself in Lakers history, as he and Anthony Davis have won the 17th title in franchise history, tying the Boston Celtics for the most in NBA history. What a way to cap of the longest season, what a way to honor Kobe. ladies and gentleman, the Los Angeles Lakers are your 2019 2020 NBA Champions!