When the buzzer rang on Oct. 11, the 2020 NBA Finals came to a close, and once again, the Los Angeles Lakers were champions. However, the Lakers’ victory — who clinched the title with a 106-93 win over the Miami Heat — was bittersweet, coming almost nine months after the tragic death of Kobe Bryant. After securing the NBA title, Anthony Davis gave an emotional shout-out to Vanessa Bryant. “We know he’s looking down on us. I know Vanessa is proud of us, the organization is proud of us. [Kobe] was a big brother to us. We did this for him.”
LeBron James, who was named the NBA Finals MVP, used his moment to give thanks to the team and focus on what really mattered. LeBron, 35, stressed the need to fight against “police brutality,” against “voter suppression,” and continue the push for “social justice in America.”
LeBron gave love to Kobe and Vanessa following Game 2 of the 2020 NBA Finals. During the game, the Lakers wore “Black Mama” inspired jerseys bearing patches with the number 2 – that of Kobe’s daughter, Gianna Bryant, who perished alongside him and seven others in the Jan. 26 crash – on the shoulder. “It’s always special to represent someone that meant so much, not only to the game but obviously to the Lakers organization for 20-plus years,” LeBron said in a post-game interview. “For us to honor him, being on the floor, this is what it’s all about.
“We’re thinking about the Bryant family, of Vanessa and them daughters,” he added. “They’re with us, we’re with you guys, we love you guys, and hopefully, we’re making them proud by wearing these uniforms tonight and throughout the course of the postseason.”
Ahead of Game 4, LeBron continued the celebration of the life and legacy of Kobe Bryant. As he walked into the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex inside Walt Disney World, LeBron wore a white t-shirt bearing the iconic image of a shouting Kobe Bryant proudly tugging on his Lakers Jersey. “More Than Ever With Love” read the words underneath.
“Every time you put on purple and gold, you think about his legacy and what [Kobe] meant to this franchise for 20-plus years,” LeBron said on Sept. 27, after the Lakers secured a spot in the NBA Finals. “What he stood for both on the floor and off the floor, what he demanded out of his teammates, what he demanded out of himself. You know we have some similarities in that sense…just that drive to always want to be victorious. It stops you from sleeping,” James added. “You sacrifice a lot of things, you sacrifice your family at times, because you’re so driven to be so great that other things fall by the wayside at times. I understand that. I’m one of the few that can understand the mindset that he played in.”
This victory would give Kobe a reason to smile. The Lakers have won their 17th NBA Championship, and are now tied with the Boston Celtics for most NBA championships. For LeBron, it marks the fourth title of his career, his first with the Lakers. He previously won the Championship with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016, and twice with the Miami Heat in 2012 and 2013.
This was the first NBA Finals for the Los Angeles Lakers since 2010, and it was over in short fashion. LeBron, Anthony Davis, and the rest of the LA squad won in a fairly-dominant fashion. Game 1 ended with the Lakers going over the Heat, 116-98. Game 2 was a little bit better for Miami, but the Heat still lost, 124-114. Miami rebounded in Game 3 to win, 115-104, but the Lakers responded by taking Game 4, 102-96. Mami took Game 5, 111-108, proving that there was still fire in the Heat team’s belly.
In Game Five, the “win at all costs” Mamba Mentality that Kobe lived by showed through in the game. The team lost AD to an Achilles injury early on, though he eventually returned later in the game. The Lakers were outscored in the first three quarters but roared back in the fourth to finally take the lead. LeBron had a monster 40 plus point game, and at 35 years, 284 days old, he passed the great Michael Jordan (35y-117d) as the oldest player to drop 40+ points in an NBA finals game. But in the end, the Heat came out on top 111-108 with a score in the last second of the game, forcing a Game Six.