Los Angeles Lakers clinch record-tying 17th NBA championship with 106-93 Game 6 win over the Miami Heat as LeBron James captures his fourth title 10 months after the death of club icon Kobe Bryant
Two nights after letting the Larry O’Brien Trophy slip through their grasp in Game 5 of the NBA Finals, the Los Angeles Lakers captured their 17th title on Sunday with a 106-93 Game 6 win over the Miami Heat, slapping a fitting ending onto the most turbulent season in league history.
It was less than 10 months ago that Lakers icon Kobe Bryant, his 12-year-old daughter Gianna, and seven others died in a helicopter crash along the California coast. And although most of the current Lakers never played alongside Bryant, the team’s championship run still served as a meaningful tribute to his legacy, which included the club’s previous five titles.
‘Ever since the tragedy, all we wanted to do was do it for him,’ said Lakers star Anthony Davis. ‘We didn’t want to let him down.
‘It’s a tough moment,’ Davis continued. ‘He was a big brother to all of us.’
LeBron James celebrates his fourth NBA title with JR Smith and his Los Angeles Lakers teammates on Sunday night
LeBron James embraces former teammate Udonis Haslem following Game 6 of the NBA Finals outside Orlando on Sunday
Los Angels Lakers fans watch on a mobile phone as the Lakers play against the Miami Heat in Game 6 of the 2020 NBA Finals
Lakers fans celebrate near Staples Centers as Los Angeles plays against Miami Heat in Game 6 of the 2020 NBA Finals
NBA 2019-2020 SEASON TIMELINE
The NBA is capping off what has been the most turbulent campaign in league history. Here is a brief synopsis of the last 12 months:
- October 4, 2019 – Rockets general manager sparks an international controversy by tweeting his support for anti-Chinese government protestors in Hong Kong. The NBA, which makes an estimated $4billion annually in China, is taken off state TV for one year. Morey apologizes for the uproar over the tweet, but is not punished by the NBA
- January 1, 2020 – Former commissioner David Stern passes away at 77 following a brain hemorrhage. Stern is credited with building the NBA’s popularity in China
- January 26, 2020 – Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, his 12-year-old daughter Gianna, and seven others are killed in a helicopter crash along the California coast
- March 11, 2020 – The NBA becomes the first American pro sports league to suspend its season due to the coronavirus pandemic after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tests positive
- July 31, 2020 – The season resumes inside the league’s Disney World bubble, where players, media, coaches, and other staff are isolated from the pandemic. Following the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd on May 25, the league and players’ union agreed to approve social justice messaging on jerseys, such as ‘Equality’ and ‘Vote’. The jerseys are first worn inside the bubble, where many players draw criticism for kneeling in protest of racism during the national anthem
- August 26, 2020 – The Milwaukee Bucks boycott a game in protest of the Kenosha, Wisconsin police shooting of Jacob Blake. The season is suspended for a second time before restarting three days later
- October 9, 2020 – The NBA returns to Chinese state television
That the NBA season ended nearly one year after it began, and on a neutral court inside a coronavirus-resistant ‘bubble’ only served to make the moment more surreal.
The league became America’s first to postpone its season at the onset of the pandemic on March 11, leading to a four-month hiatus. Ultimately NBA commissioner Adam Silver and the players’ union agreed to finish the year with 22 teams at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports campus outside Orlando.
The challenge was keeping the pandemic at bay in a state where over 15,000 people have died due to COVID-19. Unlike the NFL and Major League Baseball, leagues that went without bubbles and subsequently were forced to postpone several games due to infections, the NBA has remained more or less COVID-free in Florida.
The downside of the bubble may have been the in-game atmosphere, which was cold and somewhat contrived.
There were no fans to celebrate with the Lakers. The only attendees were team employees and small groups of relatives and friends, who remained masked and practiced social distancing.
Instead of courtside celebrities, the Lakers were surrounded by the digital images of fans projected onto the scoreboards encircling a court emblazoned with the words ‘Black Lives Matter.’
That slogan, like the social justice messages stitched onto the players’ jerseys, would have been unthinkable back when the season started in October. In recent years the NBA actually required players to stand for the national anthem.
But following the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd on May 25, the league embraced the protests performed by players, most of whom declined to stand for ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ inside the bubble.
The 2019-2020 season will also be remembered for the passing of longtime commissioner David Stern, who suffered a brain hemorrhage in December and passed away on January 1.
Stern will perhaps best be remembered for building the league’s presence in China, which was, until recently, a $4 billion market for the NBA.
That, however, was put into jeopardy when the season began in October, when Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted his support for anti-Beijing protestors in Hong Kong.
China’s government furiously banned the league from state TV for a year (a ban that ended Friday), while the NBA took criticism in North American for its perceived kowtowing to the communist nation.
Although Morey apologized for the uproar, he was never punished by the league or reprimanded publicly by Silver.
That was nearly one year ago.
LeBron James, who poured in 40 points in a losing effort on Friday, began Game 6 by setting another record in his illustrious career. Sunday’s game was the 260th of James’ playoff career, lifting him into sole possession of first place on the league’s postseason appearances list
Anthony Davis (left) and the Los Angeles Lakers are once again trying to clinch their 17th NBA title with a win over the Miami Heat, but unlike Friday’s Game 5, which seemed destined to be an anticlimactic finale to an uneven series, Sunday’s Game 6 begins with much more drama thanks to Jimmy Butler (right).
After jumping out to a 28-20 lead in the first quarter, the Lakers appeared to blow the game open in the second by outscoring the Heat 36-16 to go into halftime with a whopping 64-36 advantage.
The biggest difference for Los Angeles wasn’t James, who scored 40 points in a losing effort on Friday, but rather his teammates. Lakers guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and center Anthony Davis each poured in 15 points over the first 24 minutes of action, with Rajon Rondo adding 13 off the bench.
Not to be outdone, James added 11 points after setting a new league record at the start of Game 6.
James, who poured in 40 points in a losing effort on Friday, is appearing in his 260th playoff game, lifting him into sole possession of first place on the league’s postseason appearances list.
Now in his 17th season, James has reached the playoffs 14 times in 15 years. His teams in Cleveland, Miami and now Los Angeles have gone 14-0 in first-round series with James on the roster, 11-3 in second-round series and 10-1 in the conference-final round.
He had been tied with Derek Fisher for the top spot on the playoff list with 259.
To put James’ postseason longevity into perspective, consider that 260 games is the equivalent of 3.2 full regular seasons. And out of the 4,489 players to have appeared in an NBA regular-season contest, 63% did not (or in the case of active players, have not) gotten into 260 games.
That means James’ postseason career alone has included more games than most NBA players’ entire careers.
Game 6 also was the 55th NBA Finals game of James’ career, tying him with Jerry West for fourth-most in league history. Bill Russell played in 70, Sam Jones in 64 and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 56.
Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (R) and Miami Heat forward Andre Iguodala (L) fight for the ball in the first quarter
Jimmy Butler pictured before Game 6 of the NBA Finals on Sunday night at the league bubble near Orlando, Florida
LeBron James of the Lakers (left) and Miami’s Bam Adebayo both had early first-quarter dunks on Sunday night
For the second time this weekend, the Larry O’Brien Trophy (pictured) is courtside for another NBA Finals game between the Lakers and Heat, only unlike Friday, when LeBron James ‘s 40-point effort wasn’t quite enough to put away Jimmy Butler & Co., the momentum suddenly belongs to Miami
Just as most players have done throughout the NBA’s restart, the Lakers protested racism during the anthem on Sunday
REVEALED: LAKERS’ DANNY GREEN FACED DEATH THREATS AFTER MISSING POTENTIAL GAME WINNER
Lakers guard Danny Green revealed Sunday that he and his fiancee received death threats after he missed a shot that could have returned the NBA title to Los Angeles.
‘It’s just a basketball game at the end of the day and they’re taking out their emotions and they need someone to blame. It came down to the last play and of course I’m the easy target,’ said Green, an 11-year NBA veteran who has won championships with the San Antonio Spurs and Toronto Raptors.
Green had an open look from 25 feet in Game 5 of the NBA Finals on Friday night, but his shot with 7.1 seconds left fell short. The Miami Heat won 111-108, and the Lakers lead the best-of-seven series 3-2 heading into Sunday night’s Game 6.
Danny Green (far left) had an open look from 25 feet in Game 5 of the NBA Finals on Friday night, but his shot with 7.1 seconds left fell short. The Miami Heat won 111-108, and the Lakers lead the best-of-seven series 3-2 heading into Sunday night’s Game 6
Danny Green (left) said his fiancee, Blair Bashen (right), alerted him to the threats made via social media
He said his fiancee, Blair Bashen, alerted him to the threats made via social media.
‘Didn’t faze me, didn’t care, just ignore it,’ Green said. ‘Those people’s opinions don’t matter to me. Only the people in the locker room and on this roster are the things that are relevant and that matter to me. If they’re still confident and encouraged and still believe in me and believe in us, that’s all that matters to me.’
Green scored eight points in 24 minutes on Friday night. On the season, he averaged 41.6 percent from 3-point range.
‘Basketball wise, it was a good look.’ Green said. ‘I had more time than I realized. I should’ve taken more time. I probably rushed it a little bit. I was a little off balance. But we got a good look. We had a second opportunity. Trying to come out and play back again. I’ll do anything to get that shot back, trust me. You’re going to make some. You’re going to miss some. It’s part of the game. I’ve been in that situation plenty of times. I’ve made some. I’ve missed some. Unfortunate it was for us to close out the series, that would’ve been great to win it.
‘But any person that plays sports and any person that plays basketball knows that it doesn’t come down to that last play. It’s never on one play.’
Members of the Miami Heat kneel as center Meyers Leonard stands before Game 6 of the NBA Finals inside the league bubble
NBA IS BACK IN CHINA AFTER GETTING BANNED A YEAR BY BEIJING WHEN ROCKETS GM DARYL MOREY VOICED SUPPORT FOR PROTESTORS IN HONG KONG
The NBA is returning to Chinese state television after a one-year absence.
CCTV announced Friday that it would air Game 5 of the NBA Finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat – the first time that the league would appear on the network since the rift that started when Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted support for anti-government protesters in Hong Kong.
State television made an on-air announcement that the game would be broadcast; the network’s web site had a preview of the game, including a photo of the Lakers’ LeBron James and Miami’s Jimmy Butler.
‘In the Chinese National Day and Mid-Autumn Festival that just passed, the NBA expressed holiday blessings to Chinese fans,’ the China Media Group, essentially the operator of CCTV, said in a statement. ‘We have also noticed the goodwill continuously expressed by the NBA for some time. Especially since the beginning of this year, the NBA has made active efforts in supporting the Chinese people in fighting against the novel coronavirus epidemic.’
Rockets’ GM Daryl Morey apologized for the tweet he swiftly deleted that included an image of the activists’ rally cry: ‘Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong’
CCTV quickly halted its relationship with the NBA after Morey’s tweet, even though the post was quickly deleted. Given the timing, it appears the suspension of NBA coverage by that network was designed to last one year; CCTV announced on Oct. 8, 2019, that it was beginning an immediate investigation into its relationship with the NBA, stemming from the network being ‘strongly dissatisfied’ over the league’s decision to not sanction Morey.
The NBA did not have an immediate comment to CCTV’s decision.
NBA games have been available to Chinese fans on the streaming service Tencent, another of the league’s broadcast partners. But the relationship between the league and China could be best categorized as frosty since the tweet, with only some slight hints of reconciliation.
NBA legend and Chinese Basketball Association President Yao Ming did come to the U.S. to attend the memorial service for commissioner emeritus David Stern in January, a move viewed by some as one that showed there was hope for the league and China to mend fences. More hope came in February, when the NBA sent more than $1 million in medical supplies to China to assist coronavirus relief efforts there. The Chinese publicly thanked the NBA for that gesture.
Employees watch a live broadcast of Game 5 of the NBA Finals at an NBA store in Beijing, Saturday, Ocober 10, 2020. The NBA is returning to Chinese state television after a one-year absence. CCTV announced Friday that it would air Game 5 of the NBA Finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat – the first time that the league would appear on the network since the rift that started when Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted support for anti-government protesters in Hong Kong.
Rockets GM Daryl Morey (left) apologized for the now-deleted tweet in support of the Hong Kong protests. The league didn’t apologize for Morey’s tweet, but commissioner Adam Silver (right) was criticized for his alleged kowtowing to China, a $4 billion market for the NBA
But the fallout after the tweet last year was quick and massive. Sponsors – following CCTV’s lead – pulled their backing of the NBA China Games between the Lakers and Brooklyn Nets; the preseason games were played, though no news conferences were held and most events surrounding the games in the basketball-mad nation were canceled as well.
At All-Star weekend this year, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said it was possible the league could lose as much as $400 million in revenue this year because of the strained relationship with the Chinese.
And that estimate preceded the costly shutdown because of the coronavirus pandemic, another massive financial blow that forced the league to cancel about 15 percent of its remaining regular-season games. The league wound up salvaging the season by moving into a bubble at Walt Disney World, yet another big expense for games that took place without fans present – meaning no ticket, concession or souvenir revenue.
Demonstrators set a LeBron James jersey on fire during a rally at the Southorn Playground in Hong Kong on October 15, 2019. CCTV has not shown an NBA game since last October