After a couple of ups and downs, the Los Angeles Lakers have finally grabbed their 17th NBA championship. They survived and conquered the growing challenges of staying in the ‘bubble’ as they beat the Miami Heat in Game 6, 106-93, to win the finals series 4-2.
There’s a lot to unpack with what the Purple and Gold’s latest feat, especially since it’s a tribute to the franchise’s best player, one of the league’s greatest players of all-time, and Los Angeles’s beloved son, Kobe Bryant, who tragically passed last January.
Let’s get into the team/player firsts and other key achievements:
Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers are now tied with their longtime bitter rivals, the Boston Celtics, for most NBA championships overall. They have now racked up six since 2000 to close the gap and be neck and neck (the Celtics have only won one over the last 34 years).
The legacy of LeBron James deservingly got a whole lot of boost with this title. With the win, he became the first player to win NBA Finals MVP with three different teams (2012 and 2013 with the Heat, 2016 with the Cavaliers, and 2020 with the Lakers). As an added bonus, he joined Michael Jordan as the only players to have four or more championships and four or more NBA Finals MVPs.
There’s a long list of players who have played for the Lakers and Celtics – Rick Fox, Gary Payton, Bob McAdoo, Don Nelson, etc. – but Rajon Rondo, one of the best point guards in Celtic history, is only the second player to have a ring for both franchises. He won with Boston in 2008, and the 2020 title is his second in three finals appearances. The only other person to do it was Clyde Lovellette, who won in the ‘50s with the Minneapolis Lakers and twice in the ‘60s with the Celtics.
Danny Green is only the sixth player to win back-to-back NBA championships with different teams. He joins Pep Saul, Jackie Moore, Steve Kerr, Patrick McCaw, and Chris Boucher.
Green has gotten massive flock from Laker fans, so much so that it even included some nasty death threats. In the end, though, I’d bet that they’ve cooled off on the veteran shooter. He was good in the series-clinching Game 6, going 3-for-7 from downtown for 11 points.
He’s the seldom-used point guard with a fairly effective inside and out game, and while it’s looking he’s going to be a career journeyman, he’s been blessed with playing for some great teams. Aside from this ongoing Lakers stint, he has also played for the ‘Hamptons Five’ Golden State Warriors and the Duke University Blue Devils, under legendary coach Mike Krzyzewski.
Cook now has two rings and has made the finals in three-straight years.
As Shaquille O’Neal would say: Javaaaale McGeeeee!
The McGee blooper reels and memes have started almost 10 years ago, but look at him now. This is his third championship: one with the Lakers, and two from the Warriors (2017 and 2018)
JR Smith became the most hated LeBron James teammate after his epic blunder in Game 1 of the 2018 NBA Finals. It didn’t help that he was already getting the ‘meme’ treatment’ prior to that, thanks to his ever-erratic play on the floor.
In fact, after that series, he would only play 11 more games for the Cleveland Cavaliers before getting benched and eventually waived. Smith was unemployed from July 2019 to June 2020, when the Lakers signed him as a replacement for Avery Bradley, who opted out of the bubble. Now he’s a two-time champ. Give JR a Henny toast.
Lakers who won their first NBA championship:
It’s now interesting to see how the championship will further increase his confidence. AD is clearly going to be the face of the franchise in a year or two when LeBron is ready to hand over the torch, and he’s starting his Lakers reign in good shape after winning a title on his first year while arguably being their most consistent performer in the postseason.
He had a disastrous first stint with the Lakers in the 2012-13 season, but hopefully, some of those awful memories have been washed away with his solid 2019-20 campaign. He finally made good on his promise to
Kuz was saved from the Anthony Davis trade that made the Lakers give a big chunk of their future, and though he played this season after a serious injury, he was still able to show flashes of his ability.
The ‘Bald Mamba’ helped the Lakers win one for the ‘Black Mamba.’ Caruso is a heck of a player who deserves the recognition he’s getting, as he’s almost always going to be the hardest worker on the floor.
Within one season, he went from being a guy who was high and having panic attacks on the team plane to an NBA champion. He’s like a younger JR Smith.
KCP has a hot-and-cold shooting for his entire career, but he showed up when it mattered most, and that’s good enough for now. He scored clutch buckets in Game 4, and was also the team’s third-leading scorer (17 pts)
It was a bummer not to see a LA Clippers-Los Angeles Lakers and a Morris twins match-up. But well, it’s not Markieff’s fault that the Lakers knew how to avoid blowing a 3-1 series lead against the Nuggets.
Yes. Jared “Elmer Fudd” Dudley is now an NBA champion.
Who knew he’d be the first Antetokounmpo to win a ring?
Devontae Cacok and Talen Horton-Tucker
Two rookies who won a ring in their first go around. It must be good.