The eternal champion

The Angelenos sentenced the Heat and reign again, ten years later and after six without playoffs. Fourth ring and fourth MVP for a legendary LeBron.


Los Angeles Lakers, again. Suddenly: six years without playoffs or winning balance to the ring. From the fear of being just a ghost of the past, albeit a dazzling one, to catching up in a handful of months. Keeping up with the frenetic pace of the current NBA and with its own history, which is basketball history: 32 finals played, more than anyone else, and 17 championship titles, finally the same as the Celtics, the eternal and hated rival to the they had been chasing for half a century. The Lakers have won in all ages, in all styles, in all basketballs. It is its identity, it is purple and gold and it is the hallmark of Los Angeles, from the neon lights of Hollywood to the more seasoned neighborhoods of a tough and authentic city, more real than many people usually imagine. The city of Los Angeles. Lakers City.

Any NBA title (they all cost blood, sweat and tears) is special, but it is impossible to deny that there is something about this 2020 team that has already been recorded in a history in which it is very difficult to gain a foothold but that drives the eternity to whoever finds it. Because when the Lakers win, George Mikan, Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain and Elgin Baylor win. Magic Johnson, James Worthy and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar win. Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant win, the cried Kobe, so present in the bowels of this season. Doctor Buss, the Laker Girls and Showtime win. Bill Sharman, Pat Riley and Phil Jackson win. And they win, also already, from today, LeBron James and Anthony Davis. The new blood of an old champion. The new chapter of an endless story.

This team, forged steel, has won in the season in which Kobe died and in which the pandemic has crunched the planet and has turned the 2019-20 NBA season into a grueling long-distance race. Almost a real calendar year, a break of more than four months. The Walt Disney bubble. Airtight playoffs with no public or environmental deviations, practically laboratory conditions to choose the best. To the strongest of physique and mind, to the best prepared, to the most resistant: the NBA champion. And that team is, is again, the Los Angeles Lakers. Suddenly, again, the best. Back at the height of his legacy, first catching up with his story and then accelerating to rewrite it. The Signature of the Eternal Champion.

The Lakers have been the best team of the season, from beginning to end. Adding the bubble and the happiness that preceded it, regular phase and playoffs, attack and defense. What now seems obvious, it should be remembered, was not so obvious: in July Kawhi Leonard chose the Clippers and left the Lakers without plan A or B, with the market already squeezed and without a big three. Many did not trust Rajon Rondo, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Kyle Kuzma or Avery Bradley. Many joked when DeMarcus Cousins' injury was followed by the signing of Dwight Howard. When Lakers fans swore Alex Caruso was a defensive whirlwind. When Frank Vogel took the job they didn't want Tyronn Lue or Monty Williams. When LeBron called to war at the age of 35 and in his seventeenth season in the NBA. When some tried to remember that it was not convenient to bet against one of the best players in history, that his alliance with Anthony Davis promised atomic results and that he had not moved to California to shoot movies. Or actually yes: this is the Lakers, this is Hollywood. This is, again, the NBA champion. In 2020 as in 2010, 2000, 1988, 1980, 1972 or 1950. The only franchise that has reigned in all ages, the mother of all champions.

This is the title of Jeanie Buss, the true bloodline of her father, who was the father of the empire. It's Vogel's title, his old-school basketball, and his defense of muscle and power. It is the title of commitment, of the team without shortcuts or breaks, of chemistry and roles, of everything above the parts: the title of the basketball of a lifetime. From the underdog (Dwight Howard, Rajon Rondo, Caldwell-Pope), the survivors like Kyle Kuzma, the winners like Danny Green, the antiheroes like Alex Caruso. This is a purple and gold title, like sixteen others above and like those to come, because it is impossible to imagine that it will not be like this. And it's the title of a couple who are already among the most powerful an NBA franchise has ever put together: LeBron James and Anthony Davis. The triumph by crushing, by manifest superiority, by sheer domination. The triumph printed in the hearts of the rivals; the triumph by KO

A defensive display to remember

In the past 40 years, since 1980 (Magic Johnson's Year I), the West has won 22 titles and the East 19. Of those 22, eleven have been taken by the Lakers, the same as the total of the rest of the franchises. The last one, this number 17, came from defense. It couldn't be otherwise because that is the identity of the new NBA king: a brutal, ultra-physical, dominant defense that blows up rivals. Miami Heat put on a poker face as far as it could but came face to face with a concrete reality. Exhausted, literally without strength and with Jimmy Butler without fuel reserves, this time they could not live off the misalignments and the mistakes of the Lakers, as (with all the merit) they had done two days before. This time the Lakers, with Caruso in the starting lineup in place of Dwight Howard, did not concede a comfortable shot, did not allow a penetration, did not give away a rebound. They closed the stocks on a dam that fell with a crash, knocked down before the break.

As much as the Heat circulated, there was never a shooter released. As much as Butler kneaded, there were no paths. The Lakers' defensive display was extraordinary, to remember. For the history of the Finals. With Anthony Davis (19 points, 15 rebounds) everywhere and the concentration that was lacking in sections of the fifth game. A champion response for a team that has done that throughout the playoffs, answering: 5-0 with no failure after each loss. And throughout the season: 57-0 when he had a lead at the end of the third quarter, an astonishing figure. A pair of 3-pointers by Duncan Robinson (canceled later) and a couple of trips to the free throw line gave the Heat unrealistic breath (13-13 in seven minutes). The rest was a crush, a carnage. The game, and with it the Final, jumped from 13-13 to 36-64 at halftime: 23-51 in 17 minutes with a decisive 16-36 in the second quarter. A memorable display of the Lakers, who smelled blood and played to the limit, without stopping pushing, without complacency. A practically perfect stretch of basketball from the champion.

The party was dead midway through the third quarter (44-71). The Heat weren't even capable of taking shots and the Lakers played at a gallop and thus escaped all of Spoelstra's defensive traps. Butler (12 + 7 + 8) was a ghost, no longer bra, and LeBron James ruled the game without fuss but without making a mistake: 28 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists with a single loss for the first player to win the game. Finals MVP with three different jerseys. A King, already with four rings, protected by the immense figure of Davis and relieved by the final appearance of Rajon Rondo, who took the last breath of his rival with some wonderful minutes when LeBron rested. The point guard finished with 19 points, 4 assists and 3 triples that seemed 30 in the spirit of the Heat. In front of some hard-core secondary players, once again the best Caldwell-Pope (17 points) and very firm (11 points, 3 triples) Danny Green despite the torment that had been for him in the previous hours, after his failure in the fifth game.

There was no discussion, Miami Heat had no more lives and the Lakers played without nerves, without pressure, with a marble concentration and without any fear against an opponent who seemed willing to extend the hunt ... only until the initial jump. Ultimately it was not a match, it was a coronation. One that the NBA has seen a thousand times. In all ages, in all styles, in all basketballs: the coronation of the Los Angeles Lakers; The 2019-20 NBA Champion, The Everlasting Champion.

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