By Jamie Belfer || Sports Editor
As with many other aspects of 2020, the 2019-2020 NBA season was anything but ordinary. The three-and-a-half month postponement due to COVID, the creation of an NBA bubble in Walt Disney World, the tragic passing of Kobe Bryant and his daughter, and the ongoing social unrest and racial injustice in our country all contributed to an NBA season like never before. Thus, in addition to the focus on playing basketball and winning the championship, teams and players had other concerns throughout the season, like securing the health of themselves and their families and being activists for social change. In the end, two teams fought their way to a championship, the Los Angeles Lakers and the Miami Heat.
The Lakers and the Heat mostly breezed through the beginning rounds of the playoffs to earn their spot in the finals. After earning the number one seed in the Western Conference, the Lakers surged past the Trail Blazers, Rockets, and Nuggets winning each of the series 4-1 to meet the Heat in the finals. After earning the number five seed in the Eastern Conference, the Heat defeated the Pacers 4-0, Bucks 4-1, and Celtics 4-2 to face the Lakers.
The Lakers, led by Lebron James, dominated the Heat for most of the NBA finals; however, the Heat, led by Jimmy Butler, put up an impressive fight to challenge the dominating duo of Lebron James and Anthony Davis. In Games 1 and 2 of the playoffs, the Lakers looked as if they were going to sweep the Heat in four games, winning Game 1, 116-98, and Game 2, 124-114. Unfortunately for the Heat, two key starters, Goran Dragic and Bam Adebayo, left the first game of the series due to injury. The Anthony Davis – Lebron James duo showed up scoring a combined 59 points in the first game and a combined 65 points in the second game, totaling more than half of the team’s points in each game.
However, Jimmy Butler and the Heat were not ready to give up. Butler put on an incredible performance in Games 3 and 5 to keep the Heat on track to win a championship. In both games, the Heat battled to maintain leads at the end of the first half, something they were unable to do in Games 1 and 2. Butler had triple-doubles in both games, with 40 points 11 rebounds, 13 assists in Game 3 to help the Heat win 115-104, and 35 points, 12 rebounds, and 11 assists in Game 5 to lead the Heat to a close 111-108 victory.
After each loss against the Heat, the Lakers showed their resilience and bounced back with a commanding victory. After the Lakers lost Game 3, they were not ready to let the Heat gain any more momentum, especially with an injured Bam Adebayo rejoining the team. In turn, they powered through and won Game 4, 102-96. After losing Game 5, the Lakers were forced to play the sixth game in the series, a feat no other team had accomplished against the Lakers in the playoffs this season. However, with an all-around effort, with five players scoring double digits, the Lakers had up to 30 point leads throughout various points of Game 6 and ultimately won the series at 106-93 to become NBA Champions. Lebron James was named MVP (espn).
Of course, championships such as these spur excitement and questions about what comes next for the NBA. Another Lebron James championship (4th in total with 4 total MVPs) consequently sparks debate over whether or not he is the greatest basketball player of all time compared to Michael Jordan. James trails Jordan in championships, yet his complete domination in the league makes it difficult for basketball fans to come to a consensus. And we have yet to see how many more championships James will win. The question then becomes, will the Lakers become the new Golden State Warriors, vying for a championship every year for the next few years? Instead of the “Splash Brothers” in Steph Curry and Clay Thompson, will the great James-Davis duo lead the Lakers to become the next dynasty?
Additionally, we will have to wait and see how fans react to the Lakers’ success. Will the Lakers be cheered on and loved for their victories, or will a single trade or move lead them to become the villains of the league as some viewed the Warriors after Keven Durant joined?
Maybe, just maybe, we should turn our focus away from the Lakers, but rather towards the dark horse that kept Miami in contention for the championship. Maybe, the real question is, out of all of this, is the real winner Jimmy Butler of the Miami Heat, who showed the world his ability to take on one of the greatest players of all time—if not the greatest? Only time will tell the futures of the Lakers, James, and Butler, but the basketball world will be excitedly awaiting what is to come.
Junior Jamie Belfer is the Sports Editor. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.