LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The ultimate anguish. The ultimate joy.
This season, for LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers, had it all. And it ended in the only fashion that they deemed would be acceptable, with them back atop the basketball world.
For the first time since Kobe Bryant’s fifth and final title a decade ago, the Lakers are NBA champions. James had 28 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists, and the Lakers beat the Miami Heat 106-93 on Sunday night to win the NBA Finals in six games.
“Playing for championships, and competing for championships,” James. “This is what I came here for.”
Anthony Davis had 19 points and 15 rebounds for the Lakers, who dealt with the enormous anguish that followed the death of the iconic Bryant in January and all the challenges that came with leaving home for three months to play at Walt Disney World in a bubble designed to keep inhabitants safe from the coronavirus.
It would be, James predicted, the toughest title to ever win.
They made the clincher look easy. James won his fourth title, doing it with a third different franchise — and against the Heat franchise that showed him how to become a champion.
Bam Adebayo had 25 points and 10 rebounds for Miami, which got 12 points from Jimmy Butler — the player who, in his first Heat season, got the team back to title contention. Rajon Rondo scored 19 points for the Lakers.
The Lakers delivered what Bryant did five times for L.A. — a ring, and the clincher was emphatic.
Their latest championship pulled the franchise into a tie with the Celtics for the most in NBA history, 17 apiece.
The Celtics beat the Lakers in the 1963 NBA Finals, giving Boston its sixth title to the Lakers’ five. For the past 20,990 days, Boston remained alone atop the list of most championships.
Game 6 on Sunday was over by halftime, the Lakers taking a 64-36 lead into the break. The Heat never led and couldn’t shoot from anywhere: 35% from 2-point range in the half, 33% from 3-point range and even an uncharacteristic 42% from the line, not like any of it really mattered. The Lakers were getting everything they wanted and then some, outscoring Miami 36-16 in the second quarter and doing all that with James making just one shot in the period.
Rajon Rondo, now a two-time champion and the first to win rings as a player in both Boston and Los Angeles was 6 for 6 in the half, the first time he’d done that since November 2007. The Lakers’ lead was 46-32 with 5:00 left in the half, and they outscored Miami 18-4 from there until intermission.
Ball game. The 28-point halftime lead was the second-biggest in NBA Finals history, topped only by the Celtics leading the Lakers 79-49 on May 27, 1985.
True to form, the Heat — a No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference that finished with a losing record last season, a team that embraced the challenge of the bubble like none other — didn’t stop playing, not even when the deficit got to 36 in the third quarter.
A 23-8 run by Miami got the Heat to 90-69 with 8:37 left. But the outcome was never in doubt, and before long confetti was blasted into the air as the Lakers’ celebration formally and officially began.
John Salley and Robert Horry were, until Sunday, the only players to win championships with three different franchises. James (Miami, Cleveland) and Danny Green (San Antonio, Toronto) added their names to that list with this title.