LeBron Wins His 4th Ring

  • You have to give the NBA major props for getting the season resumed and getting a Champion crowned. No, it didn’t feel like a typical NBA Finals, but that’s the world we’re living in right now. The haters will say it doesn’t count and that it’s a “Mickey Mouse Ring” (as if that means anything) but those were real basketball games. Period.
  • It was as much a testament to the mental toughness of the Lakers as it was their basketball greatness that they had to be in the bubble for three months. I wouldn’t go as far as to say this was a harder championship to win than in a normal year; I would say it was equally difficult but for different reasons.
  • This Lakers team was not structured like a typical NBA Champion. Usually NBA champions have a big three or sometimes a Big Four, but this one had a Dynamic Duo and ran a committee approach to the #3 option. They counted on at least one of their role players stepping up and serving as the #3 guy on the team. Throughout the playoffs, it was usually KCP or Rondo, but a lot of the time both guys stepped up. KCP hit big shots time and time again, and Rondo was a floor general and emotional leader of the team.
  • There were people that thought Rondo was completely washed and actually made the team worse when he was on the floor. That may have been a valid concern last regular season (remember when people pointed to the Lakers’ abysmal plus-minus with Rondo on the floor?) but this season in the playoffs Rondo was a crucial contributor and I honestly don’t know if they would’ve won this title without him. Big time respect to Rondo for his veteran leadership, basketball IQ, clutch-shot making and dramatic improvement on his three point shot. I cannot say enough good things about 2020 Playoff Rondo. He proved everybody wrong. LeBron and Rondo are probably 2 of the top 3 Basketball IQ guys in the league, with Chris Paul being the other in the top 3. The value of having those guys on the same team–on the floor at the same time, no less–is immeasurable.
  • It’s another storybook title for LeBron. Finally getting Cleveland a championship in 2016, and now the Kobe Championship. He didn’t have to win this title, but he kinda had to win this title. Laker fans love Kobe Bryant. They worship the guy. There are lots of them who truly believe he’s the GOAT. And they were skeptical of LeBron when he joined the team. Hell, most were probably big LeBron haters for the majority of his career. And then, in 2018, they were asked to stop hating him and start loving him as the newest Laker great. That was a tough sell for lots of Lakers diehards. Remember the LeBron murals in LA that got defaced after he signed? For many years they saw him as Kobe’s main rival for best player in the league. And suddenly they were being asked to embrace him as Their Guy. No, LeBron was going to have to earn their love.
  • When Kobe Bryant died, Laker fans were devastated. Again, Laker fans worshipped that man. And all the sudden he was gone. It then became LeBron’s duty to do Kobe proud and win a ring for him. It had to happen. They had to win this ring for Kobe. It was the only real way to properly and fully honor him in the eyes of Laker diehards. In a way it felt like winning this ring for Kobe was the only way LeBron could truly prove to Laker Nation that he was worthy of their loyalty.
  • Winning one ring in Cleveland gets you immortalized in that town. But win one ring with the Lakers and you’re just getting started. While I firmly believe LeBron is the GOAT, even after this title he might still not make the Lakers’ Mount Rushmore. It’s not about overall greatness, it’s about how great you were as a Laker. And in that category, he’s still got a long ways to go. Magic, Kareem and Kobe all got 5 rings with the Lakers. Shaq got 3.
  • So much for all the people that said LeBron only went to LA to make movies, and that he was done trying to win titles. He went to LA because it was the best place to attract talent. AD probably would never have forced a trade to Cleveland. Not long after winning the 2016 Finals, LeBron said publicly he was still hungry for more and motivated to be the GOAT, and was “chasing the ghost of 23.” For some reason there is still a sizable number of NBA fans that don’t believe LeBron is a true competitor or that he isn’t serious about winning–even after leading the first 3-1 comeback in Finals history. If he wasn’t a true competitor, he would’ve given up in 2016 when they went down 3-1. And this year’s title only further proves what a competitor he is: lots of teams (the Clippers in particular) didn’t even want to be there in the bubble and it seemed like they would’ve rather lost and got to leave the bubble than win and stay in the bubble. LeBron was away from his family for 95 days, and the only reason why is because he wanted to win. LeBron is a competitor and a winner of the highest order. At some point his haters are going to have to admit that his career didn’t end with the 2011 Finals, and that series does not completely define his whole legacy.
  • Four rings, four Finals MVPs. It’s getting harder and harder to deny LeBron’s case for the GOAT. He and Michael are the only players in NBA history to have four or more Finals MVP awards. But I thought LeBron had become the GOAT after the 2016 Finals. After that, I didn’t think he had anything more to prove. My view since 2016 has been that everything LeBron accomplishes from that point on was just gravy.
  • I mean what real argument do the LeBron haters have against him? The 2011 Finals is tired and stale. He’s clearly a totally different player now, and it’s because of how he responded to his failure in that series.
  • Skip Bayless always brings up the free throw shooting, but LeBron has been in TEN NBA FINALS in his career and not a single one was won or lost based on his free throw shooting. Oh, wait, actually, the 2016 Finals did hinge on him making a free throw to go up four points, and he made it. And in Game 7 of the 2013 Finals, after he hit the dagger shot to go up 92-88 on San Antonio with 28 seconds to go, he also hit two free throws on the next possession to stretch the lead to 6 with 20 seconds to go.
  • In Game 5 of this year’s Finals, which was close until the very end, LeBron was 3-3 from the free throw line in the 4th quarter. In Game 4, which was a hard fought battle, LeBron was 7-7 from the line in the 4th quarter. For the whole series, LeBron was a perfect 11-11 from the free throw line in the 4th quarter. I really don’t understand this line of criticism.
  • Is it that LeBron will pass the ball in clutch situations? Is that supposed to be a bad thing? He makes the correct basketball play. He doesn’t play hero ball. It’s just plain dumb to force a shot when you’re being doubled or even tripled. Him passing to Danny Green at the end of Game 5 was the right basketball play. He drove to the rim and was being triple teamed. Look how open Danny Green was:
  • Danny Green may not have had the best playoffs this year, but he is undeniably one of the best three point shooters in NBA history. He is a career 40% three point shooter. Even though he missed the shot, there is absolutely nothing wrong with trusting him with a wide open look like this.
  • I don’t understand this idea that only superstar players should take clutch shots. Plenty of role players have hit huge shots in playoff games throughout NBA history. Robert Horry, Derek Fisher, Steve Kerr, John Paxson, etc. The list goes on and on.
  • By this point the “Finals record” argument should be completely discredited. People who hold LeBron’s Finals losses against him are arguing that it would’ve been better to lose prior to the Finals. So LeBron should’ve lost to Detroit in the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals rather than win the series and lose to San Antonio in the Finals. Yeah, sure. Nick Wright had a good point last night, too: if you subscribe to the “Finals Losses Always = Negative Mark on A Player’s Resume” then you’re saying Jimmy Butler would have been better off losing prior to the Finals. And that’s absolutely false. Jimmy Butler totally boosted his stature with his performance in these playoffs. More on that later. But the point is, there’s only one Finals loss of LeBron’s that you can really hold against him. Other than 2011, it’s utterly ridiculous to hold his other Finals losses against him.
  • It’s simply getting harder and harder to deny LeBron’s case for GOAT status.
  • Is it a big deal that LeBron won a ring with his third team? I guess so, if only because nobody has ever done it before. But I think with the way the NBA works nowadays with player empowerment and frequent movement between teams, it’s not really as outlandish an idea as it maybe once was. Dynasties are built and dismantled in a matter of a few years nowadays. I don’t want to take anything away from LeBron’s accomplishment, but I think we all knew he was more than capable of doing this. Hell, if he left the Lakers tomorrow and signed with almost any other team in the league (outside of the really, really bad ones) I think they turn into not only title contenders but probably favorites instantly.
  • Prior to last night, there were only two players in NBA history that won titles on three different teams: John Salley and Robert Horry. Now there are four: LeBron and Danny Green have joined the ranks.
  • However, only LeBron has won Finals MVP on three different teams.
  • Does it detract from the Lakers’ championship that they didn’t have to play the Bucks or the Clippers? I really don’t think so. I think those teams got exposed as overrated when they both lost in the second round of the playoffs. I really think people need to readjust their views on both those teams in light of how badly they disappointed in the playoffs. They were never as good as they were cracked up to be all year.
  • Will Anthony Davis re-sign with the Lakers? I don’t see why he wouldn’t. It would be a massive shock if he wanted to go play for another team. I just can’t see it happening. He was asked after the game tonight and was sort of demurring, but I also heard someone say he’s technically not allowed to comment on that type of thing due to the CBA.
  • There are so many guys on that Lakers roster that I’m happy are getting rings, first and foremost Dwight Howard. From about 2012 (his first stint with the Lakers) until this season, Dwight was in the basketball wilderness. He had fallen from grace significantly. He won three straight DPOTY awards from 2009-2011. He was a full-fledged superstar, led his team to the Finals in 2009 and was 5x All NBA First Team in consecutive years from 2008-2012. When he went to the Lakers for the first time, his career basically fell apart. Clearly Kobe did not get along with him and he only lasted a season. He went to Houston for three seasons, but after that he bounced around the league and played on some bottom-feeder teams. After Houston he went to Atlanta, then Charlotte, then the Wizards. When he came back to the Lakers this year it was his fifth team in five years. Nobody wanted him. But he carved out a role for himself and became an integral part of the rotation on a Championship team, and now he has his first ring.
  • You know the Lakers were doing everything they could to avoid signing JR Smith but somehow the man made his way onto this roster and secured his second ring. I think he lost LeBron’s trust forever after forgetting the score in Game 1 of the 2018 Finals against Golden State, essentially squandering LeBron’s 51 point masterpiece performance. I really don’t think LeBron wanted him on the team, but once Avery Bradley opted out of the bubble, they really didn’t have any other options, and so JR became a Laker. Even though he barely played, he had some hilarious meme-worthy moments from the bubble. Tackling Anthony Davis after the Denver buzzer beater, taking off his shirt immediately as the final horn sounded on Game 6 of the Finals–the basketball world is just a more interesting and funny place when JR Smith is involved in the NBA Finals, which he has been for five of the past six years.
  • Jimmy Butler may have elevated himself to superstar status with his performance in the bubble. He averaged 26ppg, 10apg, 8rpg and 2.2spg on 55% shooting. He routinely hit clutch shots and without him playing out of his mind in games 3 and 5 his team probably would’ve been swept. Most of the reason people were saying this was such an easy Finals for the Lakers was because nobody really respected Jimmy Butler as a #1 star on a team. But clearly the guy is a big time NBA player. I don’t think he’s a top-5 player in the league, but really, when I start listing off the names of guys that are clearly and undeniably better than him, it’s not that long: LeBron, KD, Giannis, Harden, Kawhi, AD, Steph, Luka, Dame, Embiid, and that’s probably it.
  • In the next tier you have Jamal Murray, Donovan Mitchell, Jokic, Tatum and Russ. I don’t know that you can definitively put any of those guys ahead of Jimmy.
  • Is this the start of a new Lakers dynasty? It could be. LeBron and AD are clearly the top duo in the NBA now, but their path to a repeat championship next year will absolutely be more difficult. The Warriors will be back in contention in the West after basically taking the year off. You have to imagine the Clippers make it out of the second round in year two of the Kawhi-Paul George era. KD and Kyrie will be one of the top teams in the East and my early prediction for the 2021 NBA Championship is Lakers over Nets in 7. It’s going to be a deeper field of contenders next year, no question.
  • The key to making it out of the West next season will be securing the #1 seed and ensuring you avoid playing both the Clippers and the Warriors in the Western Conference playoffs. If you get the #1 seed, you play the winner of the 4-5 seed game, but if you have the #2 seed, you play the winner of the 3-6 seed game. If we assume the Lakers will be the #1 seed, the Clippers the #2 seed and the Warriors the #3 seed, then that means the Clippers and Warriors play in the second round. And then the winner would presumably have the Lakers waiting for them in the Conference Finals, which is absolutely brutal.
  • In the West you’re also going to have an even-more-improved Dallas in the mix, Houston, Denver, Utah and Portland. That’s already 8 teams right there. That is a murderer’s row. There’s going to be some good teams left out of the playoffs. Phoenix, Sacramento and New Orleans are young and on the rise. I even think Minnesota is going to be better next year. There’s really no bad teams in the West looking ahead to next year. The Warriors were the worst team in the West this past season, but clearly they’re going to be back near the top next season. The West in 2021 is going to be crazy.
  • We don’t even know when the 2021 NBA season will begin. At first it was December 1, then it was late December, now NBA commissioner Adam Silver says it probably won’t start until January 2021. When you think about it, this is really the only way to do it. It’s already October 11. There’s no way you could start the 2021 season in early December. That wouldn’t even be two months of an off-season. Normally the NBA Finals end in mid-June and the next season starts in late October, meaning there’s about a 4.5 month offseason. An early/mid January 2021 start to next season at least gets us three months. Plus, it makes sense to wait things out and allow the virus to die off and the lockdowns to be lifted. Nobody wants the next season to be in a bubble. We want to go back to full arenas and a normal NBA schedule.
  • Then you run into other problems next year: the Tokyo Olympics are scheduled to begin in late July 2021, and a typical NBA season runs about 7.5 months from opening tip off to the time the trophy is hoisted. Silver says he wants to play the full 82 game schedule next season. So the NBA playoffs would likely be running well into next August or even early September, meaning most NBA players won’t be able to play in the Olympics.
  • Then, another question is this: does the 2022 NBA season start normally? Because again, the 2021 season will not be ending at the normal date, so it’s likely the 2022 season won’t start on the normal date. They could probably start the 2022 season in early December 2021, but even that would probably delay the start of the 2023 season. So either the NBA has to bite the bullet for 2021 and just establish from the outset that they’re going to play a shortened season so that they can get back on track for a normal season in 2022, or the NBA calendar is now permanently changed. In my view, it wouldn’t be a bad thing to have the NBA Finals wrap up in late July or even August from now on. As a guy isn’t really into baseball, that time from the end of the NBA Finals in mid-June to the start of football season in late August is just boring as hell. I think it would be awesome if we could just go straight into football season a couple of weeks after the NBA Finals wrap up. There would be no downtime in the sports calendar.
Octavian

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