LeBron James promised the basketball world that he would continue Kobe Bryant’s legacy nearly nine months ago in response to the shocking news that Bryant had passed away in a horrific helicopter crash. Just a day before the crash, Bryant had tweeted out to James congratulating him on becoming the number three all-time top career scorer, passing Bryant himself.
“I promise you I’ll continue your legacy man! You mean so much to us all here especially #LakerNation and it’s my responsibility to put this shit on my back and keep it going!! Please give me the strength from the heavens above and watch over me!” James tweeted.
LeBron most definitely kept that promise. The Lakers entered the NBA playoffs as the #1 seed and came out on top after defeating the Miami Heat in the best of seven series 4-2. With that victory under their belt, the Lakers tied the Boston Celtics for the most championships held by any franchise team, with seventeen apiece. James had signed with LA after his tenure with the Cleveland Cavaliers ended in 2018, resulting in obvious disappointment from fans. James’ first year playing for LA failed to meet expectations, as he suffered from a groin injury for a portion of the season, causing the Lakers to miss the playoffs.
This year, he went toe-to-toe with another former team, the Heat. Ironically, LeBron had won his first two NBA championships playing for the Miami Heat in 2012 and 2013. But the Heat, now led by Jimmy Butler, a player who had started off his NBA career playing for the Chicago Bulls, was no easy challenge.
The #5 seed Heat upset the Eastern Conference #1 seed Milwaukee Bucks in the second round of the playoffs, followed by a swift defeat of the #3 seed Celtics in their Conference Finals. Butler put on two stellar performances for the Heat victories, dropping 40 points in each. After losing the first two games of the series, however, it became clear that Butler alone wouldn’t be enough to carry the team. In the first five games of the Finals series, James was on the cusp of a triple double (where one player achieves double digits in points, assists, and rebounds). It was only fitting that in game six, he would add another triple-double to his playoff portfolio with 28 points, 10 assists, and 14 rebounds. This gives LeBron his 28th career playoff triple-double, two shy of the NBA record held by Magic Johnson. However, James now holds the NBA record for most career finals triple-doubles at ten, which happens to be two above Johnson’s number. Playing alongside James was one of the Lakers’ biggest offseason signings: Anthony Davis. Prior to signing with LA, Davis had spent his career playing for the New Orleans’ Pelicans, during which the team only qualified for the playoffs once in seven years. The now seven-time NBA All-Star was critical to the Lakers’ championship victory, averaging 25points per game, just shy of LeBron’s 29. It was clear, however, that LeBron was the lead performer of the series and was unanimously voted Finals MVP. In his postgame interview, LeBron was questioned about his motivations for bringing another championship to LA.
“Personally, thinking I had something to prove fuels me, it fueled me over this last year and a half, since my injury. It fueled me because no matter what I’ve done in my career up to this point, there’s still little rumblings of doubt or, you know, comparing me to the history of the game, and ‘Has he done this? Has he done that?’” James said.
James references what is likely the most well-known debate in professional basketball: is LeBron James or Michael Jordan the G.O.A.T?
The last NBA team to win back-to-back championships was the 2017-2018 Golden State Warriors. The last team to win three titles in a row was the 2000-2002 Lakers, led by Bryant. LeBron has already cemented his career in LA by winning a championship just after the Lakers fans lost their icon, but will he continue the legacy of Bryant’s five rings?