The Lake Show is Back

Hunter Firment, Assistant Sports Editor

After six hard-fought games in this season’s NBA Finals, LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers were handed the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy for the franchise’s NBA record-tying (with the Boston Celtics) 17th time. James was also awarded the series’ Bill Russell NBA Finals MVP Award for his performance in the championship run. He capped off the Lakers’ Finals glory with a dominant 28 point triple-double, and he controlled the pace and tempo of the game from the tip to the final buzzer. With LeBron’s championship pedigree and tendency to show up when the lights shine the brightest, his Game Six performance was not surprising. Neither were the efforts of Lakers big-man Anthony Davis, who scored at will throughout not only this Finals series but the entire Playoffs. However, a few other Lakers shocked the world in the series, and more specifically in the series-clinching Game Six. 

The first was guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. After all the heat and criticism he took from Lakers fans throughout the season, Caldwell-Pope proved his worth down the stretch in the series. His 17 points in Game Six were the spark that LA needed to get past the Jimmy Butler-led Miami Heat. He drilled threes when the team needed him to, and pushed the pace on the fast-break as well. When NBA fans remember this Lakers championship squad, they will remember Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. 

The other unsung heroes for the Lakers were guards Alex Caruso and Rajon Rondo. Caruso finished Game Six with a plus-or-minus of +20, which led all players. His energy and savvy passing were exactly what the Lakers needed. Also, he gained the trust of LeBron over the course of the season and gelled well with him in the backcourt when they were paired together. And finally Rondo. I could talk all night about what the ex-Celtic and ex-LeBron foe gave every single night for this Lakers team. But more than any spectacular behind the back pass or perfectly-timed pick-and-roll that he executed, his experience was what he ultimately gave to this team. Experience and championship drive. Rondo won a ring with the 2008 Boston Celtics team that also included Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. He was integral to that team that beat the late Kobe Bryant’s Lakers and was equally important for this year’s Lakers team. After waiting 12 years to win his second ring, Rondo’s hunger and desire to regain his place atop the NBA’s elite was evident. 

Thanks in part to an unselfish and extremely effective supporting cast, LeBron James claimed his fourth NBA Finals Championship on Sunday, leaving him two shy of Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan’s six titles. But before we begin the never-ending and tiring GOAT debates, let us all admire the greatness that we have all been afforded to witness each time we turn the television on to watch LeBron James play basketball. Whether or not you think James’ resume stacks up to that of Jordan, you have to feel privileged to live in the same era as LeBron’s prime NBA years. 

And the best part of it all is that those prime years, despite him turning 36-years-old in December and playing his 17th season in the league this year, are not behind him. We could very well be sitting here talking about a Lakers repeat this time next year. However, with the emerging Brooklyn Nets who will run out stars Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant when we see them next, LeBron could be in for a struggle next season. Not to mention, the same squads out West that challenged the Lakers this year will come back hungry for vengeance. And who knows what another NBA offseason will bring in terms of trades and free agent acquisitions? But all of that is in the future and with regard to the future, we can only speculate. 

For now, LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers are NBA Champions. The King has returned to the throne after a four-year hiatus. With all the work he has put in both on the court with the Lakers and off the court with the NBA’s social justice efforts, it was only right that he ended the season victorious. Let him wear the crown.