Less than an hour before the Game 6 of the NBA Finals showdown between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Miami Heat, the Heat gave me a glimmer of hope:
Goran Dragic Active for Game 6
Heat guard is listed active for tonight’s do-or-die game vs. Lakers after tearing his plantar fascia in Game 1.
This was the was text notification I received from Bleacher Report. And while Jimmy Butler predicted that it would be Duncan Robinson that would explode in Game 6 and push the series to a seventh game, the triumphant return of Dragic had me really thinking that the Heat would emerge victorious on Sunday. So much so, that I scrolled through my phone and harassed almost every Lakers fan I knew with a word of warning: “GAME 7”.
Boy, was I fucking wrong.
Almost immediately the Lakers went to work, playing suffocating defense and forcing turnovers while attacking the paint on the other end of the floor. And with Butler gassed from playing so many minutes during the series, the game quickly got out of hand. Before I knew it, the Heat were down by 28 points at the half—the second-largest lead in NBA Finals history—and by the time the bloodbath was over, LeBron James and Anthony Davis combined for 47 points and 29 boards. Also, if you think Playoff Rondo would miss the opportunity to make an auspicious appearance—he brought 19 points and four assists to the Heat’s funeral—you’d be sadly mistaken.
The Heat had absolutely no answer for the Lakers’ discipline and ferocity. It was like the entire team was possessed by the ghost of Kobe—and maybe they were.
“When I took the job, I remember [Kobe] said, ‘Hey, I know what you did for me for 20 years,’” Lakers vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka, who used to be Kobe’s agent, told reporters after the game. “He said, ‘I’ll give you two, three years, you’ll fix this. You’ll get the Lakers back on top.’
“I guess you were right, man. You give me the energy to do it.”
Growing up in Tulsa, Okla., and spending almost my entire adult life in Phoenix, Ariz., I have no concept whatsoever of what it means for a city to win a championship in professional sports. Sure, the Suns’ Steve Nash era was a beautiful thing to witness firsthand and the Cardinals making the Super Bowl in 2009 is a memory I’ll never forget, but neither of the above was anywhere near what I experienced last night. Because now that I live in Los Angeles, championships are the expectation—not an aberration.
So after a ten-year championship drought comprised of a 17-win season in 2015-16, Kobe’s ugly exodus, Byron Scott’s ineptitude as a coach, the late David Stern vetoing the infamous Chris Paul trade, LeBron’s first season as a Laker ending in resounding failure, the Buss family taking turns backstabbing each other, Kobe’s tragic death and a fucking global pandemic that has transformed a once booming metropolis into the set for The Walking Dead, Los Angeles had plenty to celebrate after the Lakers won their 17th championship as a franchise on Sunday night.
Unfortunately for me, I live all of two blocks away from Staples Center—the epicenter of the Lakers Universe. So almost immediately after the game was over, fans began flooding my neighborhood waving Lakers jerseys, honking their car horns, letting off fireworks and doing the absolute most for a good five or six hours strong; until liiiiiiiiike 1 a.m.
It was absolute chaos.
I know this because my nosey ass went outside to take it all in myself.
I also know this because my ass couldn’t sleep with all that shit going on right outside of my apartment.
But Los Angeles deserves this moment, as do the players and organization that did their part to help a city that’s been through so much begin to heal—even Dwight Howard’s punk ass.
Congratulations to the Lakers, their fans and most importantly my home, Los Angeles. I never really understood the connection between the Lakers and Los Angeles before, but after last night, it all makes so much more sense.