Basketball

LeBron James 'wants respect' after leading LA Lakers to historic NBA title 

Two-time Olympic Champion LeBron James named Finals MVP after dominant performance in 4-2 series win over Miami Heat

By Olympic Channel ·

The Los Angeles Lakers are NBA champions.

In a finals series that had been billed as LeBron James against his former team, it was fitting that the two-time Olympic basketball champion would play a starring role in sealing their 17th title.

The American collected his fourth NBA championship, and fourth finals series MVP, becoming the first player to collect the accolade with three different franchises.

James finished with 28 points, 14 rebounds, and 10 assists in the 106-93 game 6 victory over the Miami Heat in the Orlando bubble.

The Lakers' 4-2 series win concluded an historic 2020 campaign which was interrupted by the coronavirus pandemic, and included the tragic death of Lakers' Team USA star Kobe Bryant.

Proving a point

The Lakers had led by 28 points at halftime in game 6, making their first title in 10 years almost a formality at the end of a series where the Heat had often done well to keep hope alive.

But this time there was little Rio 2016 gold medallist Jimmy Butler could do to prevent the defeat.

The Lakers are now tied with the Celtics with a record 17 NBA titles, while James moves into second-place alone behind only Michael Jordan in NBA Finals MVP awards.

"It means a lot to represent this franchise," former Heat star James said on court following the victory.

"We just want our respect. Rob [Pelinka] wants his respect. Coach [Frank] Vogel wants his respect, the organisation wants their respect. Laker Nation want their respect. And I want my damn respect, too."

A turbulent season

It was a unique season for the Lakers on several levels, which began with a tumultuous pre-season trip to China in October 2019.

Relations between the Asian nation and the NBA were at an all-time low following a tweet from Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey supporting the Hong Kong protests, which resulted in the Chinese government banning the league from state TV. The ban ended last Friday for game 5 of the finals.

January 2020 was marked by the passing of longtime commissioner David Stern who suffered a brain hemorrhage, while the world came to a standstill when Lakers legend Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash alongside his 12-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others.

After the NBA season shut down on 11 March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, action returned in a secure environment at Walt Disney World in Florida on 31 July with no fans in attendance.

After over 90 days in the bubble, the Lakers are finally free to leave and celebrate with family and friends.

Unsurprisingly, the memory of Bryant played a significant part in spurring the Lakers on to victory. Anthony Davis said in in the immediate aftermath: ‘We didn’t let him down.’

LeBron James: The new GOAT?

Despite enjoying an illustrious history, it was the end of a barren stretch for the Lakers who last won an NBA title in 2010.

But the arrival of James from the Cleveland Cavaliers signaled a new dawn at the franchise. The Western Conference title soon followed before ultimately, NBA finals victory.

"Thinking I have something to prove fuels me," said James, who becomes the first player in NBA history to be named Finals MVP with three different teams (Lakers, Cavaliers and Heat).

"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."

Lakers Coach Vogel described James as 'the greatest player the basketball universe has ever seen' after his team's NBA finals win, while Heat talisman Butler said of his rival, 'He's shown why he is the player that he is, why he's had the career and the legacy that he's continually building."