On Oct. 11th, the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Miami Heat in Game 6 of the 2020 National Basketball Association Finals; a feat that seemed impossible in March. When the world was put on hold due to COVID-19, NBA fanatics wondered what would happen to their beloved sport. After a positive COVID test from Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert, the NBA indefinitely postponed the rest of the season on Mar. 11. Many worried that the 2019-20 season would have to be nulled and erased in history as if it never happened. But then, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announced the NBA would go into a bubble in order to try and prohibit the virus from entering the closely-huddled players, coaches, and other league staff starting July 7. 170 games and zero positive COVID-19 tests later, against all odds, the NBA was able to crown a champion.
The question then is: why does this championship matter? What makes it so special? Well, for one, it came at a time when the world needed sports the most. Sports have been an outlet for countless individuals to come to as a relief for pain in their personal lives. Sports act as an icebreaker to an otherwise unbreakable social barrier between those who would usually be strangers. Sports serve as a bridge that connects us with others, creating bonds that would otherwise not exist. During quarantine, people began to lose that human-to-human connection we all desire in some form or another. Something as simple as watching ten grown men throw a leather ball into a metal ring can bring together people like nothing else.
Not only was this championship victory vastly important to the fans, but it was also important to the players and members of the Lakers organization that actually won it. On Jan. 26th of this year, NBA legend and Lakers icon Kobe Bryant was among the nine people tragically killed in a helicopter accident. Throughout the Lakers’ bubble run, everyone in Los Angeles wanted to win the championship for Kobe. After every timeout, Lakers head coach Frank Vogel would break down the huddle not by chanting the usuals such as “defense” or “team” — not this year. Instead, the arena echoed, “Mamba on 3!… 1,2,3! MAMBA,” as an ode to Bryant’s iconic “Black Mamba” nickname. When the job was finally finished, Lakers star forward Anthony Davis was seen crying by himself on the bench, in complete awe of what just happened. “All we wanted was to do it for him (Kobe),” a visibly shaken Davis said after the series-clinching victory. “I know he’s looking down on us, proud of us… He was a big brother to all of us. We did this for him.”
LeBron James certainly played his heart out in memory of Kobe as well. Following the victory, he posted a black and white picture of himself on Instagram with Kobe’s No. 24 jersey resting on his lap, the black snakeskin designed by Bryant himself before his passing and worn several times throughout LA’s title run. The caption read “Hope I made you proud my brother! Love and miss you Champ!” This championship not only means a lot emotionally to LeBron, but it certainly boosts his legacy. His disgruntled 3-6 Finals record is now boosted to 4-6. After winning his fourth Finals MVP, he becomes only the second to accomplish such a feat, while being the first to win the award on three separate teams. This certainly helps his case as the greatest player to ever pick up a basketball. In addition, this is the franchise’s 17th NBA title, tying them for the most all-time with their longtime east coast rival Boston Celtics.
The 2019-20 NBA Championship will be remembered as one of the wackiest in the league’s history. However, it should be remembered as one of the most important. It gave fans a chance to heal a wound, even if it was for a brief moment. Legacies were made. Lives were changed. But perhaps above all, the Lakers honored the legacy of the player who helped set the bar for greatness which took a long time for them to reach.