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The Quest for Championship Banner 17

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Los Angeles Lakers fans around the world have been desperate for a championship run over the past 10 years.

 

Ever since the late Kobe Bryant tore his Achilles back in 2013, it’s been uncharted waters for the Lakers as an organization. Injuries have plagued the team year after year, coupled with poor management, head-scratching head coaching hires, and all-star caliber players who typically lined up to be Lakers refused to sign with the team in free agency. It was something that Lakers fans and the organization were not used to.

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Fast forward to the present. 

LeBron James, unarguably the greatest basketball player of his generation, joined the Purple and Gold for the 2018-2019 season. He and Lakers general manager, Rob Pelinka, have pieced together the best roster possible for the Lakers to compete for that 17th title.

The absolute essential addition was acquiring superstar forward Anthony Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans via trade this offseason. With Davis and LeBron, the Purple and Gold formed arguably the most intimidating one-two punch in the league, and the Lakers felt ready to compete for the NBA championship. For that reason, Lakers fans rejoiced. They also did so knowing the dark days of Robert Sacre and DJ Mbanga manning the middle were long behind them. 

 

As the season went on, the Lakers rose to the top of the standings.

 

Their style of play was almost like bringing the “Showtime Era” back to Los Angeles. For Lakers fans, it has been, at times, like watching Magic Johnson run the fast break with James Worthy gliding through the air or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar with his patented sky-hook. The only thing missing was the late Chick Hern saying “Slaaaaaam DUNK!” while you watched or listened to the game on TV or radio.

Photo Credit: LA Times

Many fans were not too enthused with the hiring of Frank Vogel as the team’s head coach, but it has proven to be a wise decision by Pelinka and Jeanie Buss, the team’s Governor. Vogel has brought stability, a willingness to listen to his players, and a style of play that suits his team to perfection. He also has an excellent staff led by former NBA head coaches Jason Kidd and Lionel Hollins.

Now, what seemed like it was so far away just seven years ago, is closer than ever. The sight of LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Kyle KuzmaDanny Green, Rajon RondoDwight Howard, and JaVale McGee holding up the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy in front of Staples Center at LA Live in downtown Los Angeles was finally in view.

 

 

With the NBA set to resume play in July at the ESPN Wide World Of Sports complex in Orlando, Florida due to COVID-19, Lakers fans can once again get ready for the team to make a run at their 17th NBA championship.

 

Photo Credit: CBS Sports

We are well aware of the NBA being suspended, but big-name players such as LeBron James have not been shy about sharing their thoughts on returning to play. Back in March, on a podcast hosted by two of his former teammates, Richard Jefferson and Channing Frye, James went on record as saying, “I still think, like, having a game without fans is just — what is the word ‘sport’ without ‘fan’?” James continued, “There’s no excitement. There’s no crying. There’s no joy. There’s no back-and-forth.” 

It has been a tough time for die-hard sports fans due to COVID-19. If the NBA season was finished, at this point, there are no winners, only “what-ifs.” The team that will bear most of the pain is the one with the best player and the best odds of winning the title, the Lakers. Despite having the second-best record in the league at 49-14, it feels as if no team is going to lose more than the Lakers right now, who also happened to be the NBA’s hottest team before the coronavirus outbreak.

Of course, with the pandemic going on and another spike likely to happen, the main priority for everyone is the health, safety, and well being of their families. Staying home and staying safe is the most important thing during these tough times. However, we are looking at it from purely a basketball standpoint, and it is an unfortunate situation to deal with if you’re a fan.

 

The Lakers most memorable season in almost a decade and the possibility of it all getting swept under the rug was rather unsettling for many fans around the globe.

 

Many believe that if the NBA season had never been postponed, the Lakers would have been the front runners to win it all. They were even having better odds than the Milwaukee Bucks and the Los Angeles Clippers. Speaking of which, the Lakers blew out the team with the NBA’s best record, the Milwaukee Bucks, on a Friday night, and then went on to beat the team across the hallway, the Clippers, decisively two days later!

The Lakers had momentum over the entire NBA heading into the playoffs. 

 

We also have to consider LeBron James’ motivation for continuing the season.

 

For a 35-year-old LeBron James to perform at an MVP level like he did this season is incredible. He was averaging 25.7 points per game, 7.9 rebounds, and a career-high assist average at 10.6 per game, in which he led the league. For him to do it again next season, all while staying healthy, is uncertain.

The stellar play from role players such as Dwight Howard, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and Avery Bradley (even Alex Caruso) isn’t guaranteed to continue into next season. The chemistry this team had was on another level, and they all bought into the system of coach Frank Vogel.

The Lakers started the season winning 17 of their first 19 games. Anthony Davis scored 40 points along with 20 rebounds in a game against the Memphis Grizzlies, and LeBron James passed the late Kobe Bryant for third place on the NBA’s All-Time scoring list. These were just a few things that made this such a special season. 

A championship would be the cherry on top. 

James also knows that this would be a different championship. Yes, winning two in Miami with the Miami Heat made him a champion, and he will forever be known as the person who broke the “Cleveland Curse” by bringing the city’s first professional title since 1945. But winning a title on a team that is arguably the NBA’s most iconic franchise brings a different gravatar to one’s legacy, especially to a person with a legacy as polarizing as LeBron’s.

 

Lastly, this title would mean more to the Lakers and the city of Los Angeles.

 

The Lakers’ bitter rivals, the Boston Celtics, have seventeen NBA championships, the most in NBA history. However, they only have one since 1986, while the Lakers have seven in that same period. So the Lakers would love nothing more than to catch the Celtics record in titles rub it in their faces.

But with the passing of Kobe Bryant, the Lakers as an entire organization may feel even more pressure to win their 17th championship. Kobe was not only friends with some of the current players on the team, but he also played with and against them.

Photo Credit: ESPN

LeBron addressed the Staples Center crowd before the first game the team played after the passing of Bryant.

Kobe is a brother to me, and from the time I was in high school watching him from afar, to getting in this league at 18, watching him up close, all the battles that we had throughout my career, the one thing that we always shared was that determination to just want to win and just want to be great.” James continued, “And the fact that I’m here now means so much to me. I want to continue along with my teammates to continue his legacy, not only for this year but as long as we can play the game of basketball that we love because that’s what Kobe Bryant would want,” James said.

Many of the players on the Lakers’ roster looked up to Kobe, the same way Bryant looked up to Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson. That desire to win for Kobe is now a driving factor for the team. It is also why a lot of the Lakers are so eager to finish the season and compete for the NBA title. They want to win it for Kobe and Gianna Bryant.

The Lakers are the heartbeat of Los Angeles. They undeniably sit atop the totem pole when it comes to the City of Angles sports teams. With the passing of Kobe and GiGi, the Lakers making all the right moves in the offseason, and with the team chemistry at an all-time high, the city would go crazy for another Lakers title.

 

There is going to be a title run by the Lakers this season. LeBron, AD, Kuz, and Co. are on a mission to complete what they started. The added time off will help heal injuries and rejuvenate their bodies. But the fire LeBron has won’t be put out until he adds the Lakers 17th banner to the Staples Center rafters, the same way Kobe would have.

 

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-Terence Smith – Franchise Sports Media

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