Basketball: Record-breaking LeBron James leads Los Angeles Lakers to 2020 NBA title

Basketball: Record-breaking LeBron James leads Los Angeles Lakers to 2020 NBA title

October 12, 2020

The ultimate anguish. The ultimate joy.

This season, for LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers, had it all. And it ended in the only fashion that they deemed would be acceptable, with them back atop the basketball world.

For the first time since Kobe Bryant’s fifth and final title a decade ago, the Lakers are NBA champions.

James had 28 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists, and the Lakers beat the Miami Heat 106-93 to win the NBA Finals in six games.

“Our organization wants their respect. Laker Nation wants their respect,” James said.

“And I want my damn respect, too.”

Anthony Davis had 19 points and 15 rebounds for the Lakers, who dealt with the enormous anguish that followed the death of the iconic Bryant in January and all the challenges that came with leaving home for three months to play at Walt Disney World in a bubble designed to keep inhabitants safe from the coronavirus.

It would be, James predicted, the toughest title to ever win.

“We have a Ph.D in adversity, I’ll tell you that much,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said.

“We’ve been through a lot.”

They made the clincher look easy. James won his fourth title, doing it with a third different franchise — and against the Heat franchise that showed him to to become a champion.

Bam Adebayo had 25 points and 10 rebounds for Miami, which got 12 points from Jimmy Butler — the player who, in his first Heat season, got the team back to title contention.

Rajon Rondo scored 19 points for the Lakers, who put together the elite talents of James and Davis with this moment in mind.And Davis, as white and gold confetti coated the floor around him, spent his first moments as an NBA champion thinking of Bryant.”

All we wanted to do was do it for him,” Davis said. “And we didn’t let him down. … I know he’s looking down on us, proud of us.”

With that, the league’s bubble chapter, put together after a 4 1/2-month suspension of play that started March 11 because of the coronavirus pandemic and came with a promise that it would raise awareness to the problems of racial injustice and police brutality, is over.

So, too, is a season that saw the league and China get into political sparring, the death on Jan. 1 of commissioner emeritus David Stern — the man who did so much to make the league what it is — and then the shock on Jan. 26 that came with the news that Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven other died in a helicopter crash. The Lakers said they were playing the rest of the season in his memory.They delivered what Bryant did five times for LA — a ring, and the clincher was emphatic.

“You have written your own inspiring chapter in the great Laker history,” Lakers owner Jeanie Buss said.

“And to Laker Nation, we have been through a heartbreaking tragedy with the loss of our beloved Kobe Bryant. Let this trophy serve as a reminder of when we come together, believe in each other, incredible things can happen.”

Game 6 was over by halftime, the Lakers taking a 64-36 lead into the break. The Heat never led and couldn’t shoot from anywhere: 35% from 2-point range in the half, 33% from 3-point range and even an uncharacteristic 42% from the line, not like any of it really mattered. The Lakers were getting everything they wanted and then some, outscoring Miami 36-16 in the second quarter and doing all that with James making just one shot in the period.

Rondo, now a two-time champion and the first to win NBA rings as a player in the cities of Boston and Los Angeles — the franchises now tied with 17 titles apiece — was 6 for 6 in the half, the first time he’d done that since November 2007. The Lakers’ lead was 46-32 with 5:00 left in the half, and they outscored Miami 18-4 from there until intermission.

Ball game. The 28-point halftime lead was the second-biggest in NBA Finals history, topped only by the Celtics leading the Lakers 79-49 on May 27, 1985.

“We didn’t get the final result that we wanted,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.

“But even what I mentioned to the guys, these are going to be lifetime memories that we have together. This locker room … we’re going to remember this year, this season, this experience and that locker room brotherhood for the rest of our lives.

“True to form, the Heat — a No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference that finished with a losing record last season, a team that embraced the challenge of the bubble like none other — didn’t stop playing, not even when the deficit got to 36 in the third quarter.”We’re trending in the right direction,” Butler said.

“We’re going to learn from this. We’re going to get better. We’re going to come back.”

A 23-8 run by Miami got the Heat to 90-69 with 8:37 left. But the outcome was never in doubt, and before long confetti was blasted into the air as the Lakers’ celebration formally and officially began.

“Laker Nation,” Vogel, now a first-time champion who saw his title hopes as Indiana’s coach thwarted three times by James and the Heat, bellowed during the trophy ceremony. “We did it.”

LEBRON’S RECORDS

Another game, another record for LeBron James.

Today was the 260th of James’ playoff career, lifting him into sole possession of first place on the league’s postseason appearances list.

James is in his 17th season. After missing the playoffs in his first two seasons, he has reached the postseason 14 times in 15 years. His teams in Cleveland, Miami and now Los Angeles have gone 14-0 in first-round series with James on the roster, 11-3 in second-round series and 10-1 in the conference-final round. He’s now 4-6 in the NBA Finals as well.

He had been tied with Derek Fisher for the top spot on the playoff games-played list with 259.

To put James’ postseason longevity into perspective, consider that 260 games is the equivalent of 3.2 full regular seasons. And out of the 4,489 players to have appeared in an NBA regular-season contest, 63% did not (or in the case of active players, have not) gotten into 260 games.

That means James’ postseason career alone has included more games than most NBA players’ entire careers.

Game 6 also was the 55th NBA Finals game of James’ career, tying him with Jerry West for fourth-most in league history. Bill Russell played in 70, Sam Jones in 64 and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 56.

Talk will no doubt resume about James’ status as a rival to Michael Jordan as the greatest of all time.

TIP-INS

Lakers: Davis did not wear the gold-painted sneakers that he had for Game 5; instead, he went with red-and-black ones Sunday. … Among the ring-winners: Dion Waiters, who began this season with the Heat; 19-year-old Talen Horton-Tucker (he turns 20 Nov. 25) and Kostas Antetokounmpo — the brother of two-time NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks.

Heat: Goran Dragic (torn left plantar fascia) checked in late in the first quarter, his first appearance since Game 1 of the series.

“I just wanted to be out there to help my team as much as possible. It is what it is. The Lakers were better,” an emotional Dragic said. … Jae Crowder had 12 points and Duncan Robinson had 10 for the Heat.

JOIN THE CLUB

John Salley and Robert Horry were, until today, the only players to win championships with three different franchises.

James (Miami, Cleveland) and Danny Green (San Antonio, Toronto) added their names to that list with this title.

HEAT SEASON

Miami led the NBA with 94 games played this season — 30 more than Minnesota, which played the fewest in the NBA.

The Heat finished with 1,247 3-pointers this season, including playoffs, 290 more than any other year in team history.

UP NEXT

Nobody knows. The draft is set for Nov. 18, but the dates for the start of free agency, training camps and next season’s schedule could be weeks away from being finalized.

– AP

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