The Los Angeles Lakers ended a decade-long wait for a 17th NBA title as they beat the Miami Heat 106-93 to seal a 4-2 series victory.
The Finals’ most valuable player (MVP) LeBron James posted a triple double – scoring 28 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists – with both Anthony Davis and Rajon Rondo adding 19 points, reports the BBC.
Victory ties the Lakers with the Boston Celtics for the most NBA championships.
“It means a lot to represent this franchise,” said James.
“I told [Lakers President] Jeanie [Buss] when I came here that I was going to put this franchise back in the position where it belongs.
“We just want our respect. Rob [Pelinka] wants his respect, coach [Frank] Vogel wants his respect, our organisation wants its respect, Lakers nation wants its respect.
“And I want my respect too.”
From the wilderness to winners
Before this season the Lakers’ had failed to reach the play-offs for six consecutive years and their long-awaited success comes after a campaign like no other.
The NBA Finals would have been done and dusted in the spring were it not for the global spread of coronavirus that shut the season down on March 11, hours after it was declared a pandemic and several players tested positive for the virus.
The season eventually re-started on July 31, but with no fans courtside. Played behind closed doors at Walt Disney World in Florida, players entered a bio-secure bubble – which the Lakers will now leave after more than 90 days away from friends and family.
They last won an NBA title in 2010, but it was those six years when they failed to reach the play-offs that best illustrated their fall from grace.
The low-point came in the 2015-2016 season, when they managed just 17 wins and suffered 65 defeats.
Change was on its way though, with firing and hiring at management level and the blockbuster arrival of James – then a three-time NBA champion – from the Cleveland Cavaliers.
That was followed by the signing of Davis in June 2019, with whom James teamed up in a partnership that just clicked. They led the Lakers to the top of the Western Conference, and ultimately to the very top of the NBA.
James becomes the first player in NBA history to be named Finals MVP with three different teams (Lakers, Cavaliers and Heat). Now with four MVPs to his name, he trails only Michael Jordan, who won six.
“Thinking I have something to prove fuels me,” said James. “No matter what I’ve done in my career up to this point, there’s still little rumblings of doubt, comparing me to the history of the game… ‘Has he done this, has he done that?’
“Having that in my head, saying to myself why not still have something to prove, I think it fuels me.”
‘Kobe’s proud of us’
Victory for the Lakers also comes in a year in which they lost one of their greats – Kobe Bryant.
The five-time NBA champion, who spent his entire career with the Lakers and led them to their last NBA title in 2010, was killed in a helicopter crash in January alongside his daughter Gianna.
On several occasions during the play-offs, the Lakers have competed in ‘Black Mamba’ jerseys – a strip themed on Bryant’s self-styled nickname.
Before their defeat in game five of the finals, the Lakers had won all four play-off matches they had contested when wearing the strip, which was co-designed by Bryant and released in 2017.
“Ever since the tragedy, all we wanted is to do it for him, and we didn’t let him down,” said Davis.
“It would have been great to do it last game in his jerseys, but it made us come down even more aggressive, even more powerful on both ends of the floor, to make sure we close it down tonight.
“I know he’s looking down on us proud of us. I know Vanessa [Bryant] is proud of us, the organisation’s proud of us. It means a lot to us.”
Bryant’s widow Vanessa posted a tribute to the Lakers on her Instagram story with a photo of her late husband with Lakers vice-president Rob Pelinka.
“Wish Kobe and Gigi were here to see this,” she wrote.