The 2019-20 NBA season had many obstacles to overcome due to multiple tragedies that have occurred this year. Despite these hurdles, it was the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday who overcame the odds and earned the title of NBA champions.
On Jan. 26, 2020, longtime Laker legend, Kobe Bean Bryant, Gianna Bryant, his daughter and seven others died in a helicopter crash outside Los Angeles. An event that shocked the NBA to its core, but one that was the driving force for the Lakers to reach the 2020 NBA Finals.
A month and a half after their deaths, the season was suspended due to the global pandemic.
With the season being canceled indefinitely, players and coaches found ways to contribute to the protests against police brutality and racial injustice that sparked the country after the death of George Floyd.
These protests followed the recent years of unjust killings of Black Americans at the hands of law enforcement. In the last few years there have been multiple people shot and killed by police officers with no justice being served.
When the season resumed in early July at Disney World in Orlando, Florida, in the NBA’s bubble, the Lakers fought hard to finish a goal set out by the franchise: winning another championship.
For the Lakers, the road to the finals was never easy as the team was tested and pushed to its limit in every game.
The Miami Heat put all the critics aside as it rose to the challenge of facing the Lakers in a showdown for the record books. Miami was looking for its first title since 2013 and the Lakers were looking to add another championship banner to the rafters after going on a 10-year hiatus.
Jimmy Butler and the Heat defied expectations by reaching the NBA Finals. Being the 5th seed in the Eastern Conference, and defeating teams like the Milwaukee Bucks, who were considered the favorite in the East, was an accomplishment in itself. Miami was able to force a Game 6 against the Lakers, but did not prevail.
While Miami was still running high with the momentum from beating Los Angeles in Game 5 to force a Game 6, the Lakers went into Game 6 with a new attitude. On Sunday, the Lakers fulfilled the promise of winning its 17th championship. From start to finish, Los Angeles dominated the game proving themselves the outright champions.
While the men on the court accomplished what the franchise set out to do, it was the woman at the helm who made history, as Jeanie Buss, owner of the Los Angeles Lakers, became the first female controlling owner to lead an NBA organization to a championship.
Following their acceptance of the Larry O’Brien trophy, players and coaches reminisced about what the win was like for them and what Kobe meant to them.
“He was a big brother to all of us, we did this for him,” said Anthony Davis, of the Los Angeles Lakers.
Lebron James, of the Los Angeles Lakers, was in typical fashion having scored 28 points, 14 rebounds, 10 assists and extended his NBA Finals record of 11 triple-doubles. Davis had a great showing with 19 points, 15 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 blocks to cap off his first finals appearance.
James averaged 29.8 points, 11.8 rebounds, 8.5 assists and was awarded Finals MVP for the fourth time in his career. He is the first player to win this honor with three different teams and franchises.
"It don’t matter where it is if you win a championship. Bubble. Miami. Golden State. It doesn’t matter. When you get to this point, it’s one of the greatest feelings in the world for a basketball player to be able to win at the highest level," James said.
Despite local health guidelines, after the victory, thousands of people walked the streets of Downtown Los Angeles celebrating outside Staples Center chanting Kobe’s name in honor of the late star.
However, the celebration was not all happy and peaceful as the Los Angeles Police Department arrested 76 people among the crowd of thousands. "Unruly individuals mixed within the crowd began throwing glass bottles, rocks and other projectiles at officers," the department said in a statement. Some of the charges issued were looting, vandalism and assaulting a police officer.
“This was very challenging and difficult, it played with your mind, played with your body and you are away from things that you are so accustomed to who make you be the professional that you are. So this is right up there, I heard some rumbling from people that's not in the bubble who say you don't have to travel and people just doubting what goes on in here. This is right up there as one of the greatest accomplishments I have,” James said.
Looking back on the season, the NBA should be commended for how it handled COVID-19, as zero positive tests were reported since teams arrived to the bubble in early July.
The NBA has set an example to help ensure the safety of its players, coaches, staff, workers and hopefully in the future, its fans.