The Los Angeles Lakers’ 17th championship is special.
It’s been over 24 hours since the Los Angeles Lakers triumphed over the Miami Heat to win the 2019-20 NBA Championship, and the magnitude of what transpired is only just properly sinking in.
Social media has been ablaze with renewed discussion as to whether LeBron James has now surpassed Michael Jordan and achieved GOAT status, whether Anthony Davis is the best defensive player in the league, or even how Rob Pelinka’s strange comments about the Kentavious Caldwell-Pope signing in 2017 no longer seem so weird in retrospect.
Meanwhile, you’d be forgiven for forgetting that we’re in a pandemic because downtown Los Angeles is in full-blown party mode, celebrating the city’s first basketball title since 2010.
Unfortunately, I’m unable to partake in the celebrations and festivities, as I’m situated half a world away in Melbourne, Australia. In fact, with Melbourne amid the second-longest lockdown in the world (only beaten by Argentina), I won’t be able to do much celebrating at all. At most, I’ll have a celebratory beer or two with my partner at my place over the weekend.
Despite the lack of wild celebrations from me, of the six Lakers titles that have transpired since I became a fan of the team, this one is the most special to me of all.
A large part of it is because the dark years have made me far more appreciative of winning basketball than I previously was.
Let’s be honest, when you become a fan of the Los Angeles Lakers, you’re not exactly born into a life of suffering. When choosing them as my favorite team in 1997, tales of giants from years gone by; Mikan, Wilt, Kareem, and Magic, allured me to the franchise. Coupled with a brand-new arrival that seemed larger than life called Shaq, and not even the allure of Michael Jordan’s dynastic Chicago Bulls could pull me away.
I didn’t have to wait very long for my fandom to pay off, with a threepeat to start the millennium. Even in the seven years between the threepeat and Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol winning back-to-back titles, the team was rarely uncompetitive for prolonged stretches. I was spoilt.
Then, a vetoed coup for Chris Paul triggered a chain reaction of events that culminated in the Lakers residing in the league’s basement. Not only did we not make the playoffs for six years (the longest playoff drought in team history), but during that stretch, we had the equal-worst record in the entire NBA.
Those years where we had Byron Scott as our head coach and his insistence on starting Ronnie Price over D’Angelo Russell, starting lineups with Jordan Clarkson, Wayne Ellington, Ryan Kelly, Tarik Black, and Robert Sacre, and praying for high lottery picks, have made me so appreciative of just how special this 2019-20 Los Angeles Lakers team has been.
Another factor that makes this title so special is the Kobe narrative.
I still remember exactly where I was when I found out the horrific news that my childhood hero, Kobe Bryant passed away in a helicopter crash, along with his daughter Gianna and seven others. It’s not often someone who I’d never even met can have such an impact on my life, but Kobe was that special.
One of my favorite pieces I’ve ever written, one that I submitted when applying to write for Lake Show Life and one that had me in tears while typing it, was a piece about how much Kobe meant and still means to me.
My friends who live in the greater LA area were incredibly distraught for a long time and are still hurting even now because he was and will forever be the embodiment of Los Angeles.
LeBron’s post on social media in the aftermath of Kobe’s death, where he promised to continue his legacy, set the tone for the rest of the season.
Moments such as the league-wide deliberate 24-second violations, the Staples Center memorial, and even Anthony Davis’ game-winner where he screamed “Kobe” in the immediate aftermath, were just a few of many wonderful tributes during the season.
Plus, let’s not forget Mamba Day and the release of the Mamba Forever jerseys, which were not only stunning but were a good luck charm until Game 5 of the Finals.
However, as Bryant once famously said after going 2-0 up in the Finals, “Job’s not finished”, and it felt like anything less than a title this year would not do Kobe proper justice.
By leading the Lakers to the title by conjuring up one of the all-time great individual finals performances, LeBron James kept his promise, honoring Kobe Bryant’s memory in the best way possible.
As a result, I will forever love and appreciate not only LeBron but Anthony Davis, Rajon Rondo, KCP, Alex Caruso, and every other Laker that contributed to this championship, and I’m sure the rest of Lakers-nation feels the same way.
However, I think what makes this title special above all others, is because in a year unlike any in modern history, it’s given me and many others a reason to smile.
I’m not going to go into details about COVID-19, as I’m sure every person reading this has had their lives impacted by the spread of this virus, one way or another.
However, like I’m sure it has been for many of you, 2020 has been one of the toughest years of my life. Since late March, I’ve spent a total of three weeks not being locked down in some form or another. That’s more than 6 months of continuous lockdown, with only a brief respite.
Since late March, I’ve seen my family only once. Since July, my state border has been closed. For the last 12 weeks, it’s been illegal to go outdoors for more than one hour, or for people in my city to travel more than 3.1 miles from our homes. My usual methods of stress-relief; the gym, and playing sport, have been non-existent all year.
Adam Silver’s creation and flawless execution of the Orlando Bubble is something I’ll be forever thankful for.
At the best of times, I’m a sports fanatic who is loud and passionate about the plethora teams for which I’ve pledged my allegiance to. At a time where mental health in my city and cities across the globe is waning, the NBA and the Los Angeles Lakers were my escape from the pandemic and have brought me so much joy.
The Lakers brought a sense of normalcy to my life when the outside world has felt anything but normal. I watched every single Lakers game that didn’t clash with my day job. In between games, bantering back-and-forward with Clippers fans about who the real ‘Kings of LA’ were (hint: it’s us), deep-diving into analytics, and coming up with fresh, regular content for the best Los Angeles Lakers blog in the world kept me sane.
I’m sure that countless other Lakers fans across the globe used the team as an escape from the COVID-dominated storylines of 2020, and found the same solace, peace, and happiness in watching the team that I did.
It won’t be long until my attention will be fixated on the 2021 season and all the excitement that comes with it; researching potential draft-picks, free-agent targets, and trade-targets.
However, for now, I’m going to sit back and bask in the greatest moment of 2020, the success that was my favorite-ever Los Angeles Lakers championship.