With the Los Angeles Lakers closing in on their 17th NBA Championship against the injury-plagued Miami Heat, The McGill Tribune looks at who would reap the greatest benefits from the Lakers’ potential win.
After a disappointing 2018-2019 season beset by a groin injury, LeBron returns to the finals for a historic tenth appearance, competing for his fourth NBA Championship title. Critics and fans alike have regularly pointed out Lebron’s poor finals record (3-6) when comparing him to Michael Jordan. While a fourth championship may not place him above Jordan in the GOAT debate, it will make him the only player to carry three separate franchises to an NBA championship. LeBron knows the significance of this title—regardless of the injuries to key Heat players Bam Adebayo and Goran Dragic, he will need this fourth ring in his quest to step out of Michael Jordan’s shadow.
Davis was ranked first by ESPN out of high school, drafted as the undisputed number-one pick after winning a national championship at Kentucky, and since the beginning of his professional career, has made six All-Star appearances and warranted three All-NBA first teams. Despite these accolades, Davis never had much playoff success with the Pelicans, losing to the Golden State Warriors in 2015 and 2018. Questions have always risen about Davis’ ability to lead a winning team and now more than ever, he needs to prove he can win. While Davis did not have much help in New Orleans, barring Jrue Holiday, he currently has a partnership with Lebron James. While Davis may not win the Finals MVP, if the Lakers emerge victorious, his maiden ring in the bubble will distinguish his career from the greats before him who failed to win.
At just 21 years old, Rajon Rondo won his first championship with the Celtics in 2008, beating the Kobe Bryant-led Lakers in six games. Despite losing against the Lakers in a 2010 Finals rematch, Rondo was seen as the future of the Celtics. However, an Eastern Conference Finals defeat to Miami’s Big 3 saw Rondo being traded to the Dallas Mavericks for 3 role players and a first round pick. While his stints in Chicago and New Orleans gave him the nickname “Playoff Rondo”, he was never able to get past the second round. Winning his second ring with the Lakers more than 10 years later would truly solidify his legacy, reminding the entire league that he is still a savvy veteran leader, and one of the smartest basketball players in the league today.
Since his 2009 loss to the Lakers, Dwight Howard has failed to make it to the finals. After a short-lived and turbulent season with the Lakers in 2012, his stints in Houston, Atlanta, Charlotte, and Washington saw his career plummet from a franchise-player to an unwanted roster liability. After playing a crucial role against Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference Finals, Howard vowed to ‘take full advantage” of his return to the NBA Finals. If the Lakers win, Howard could redeem himself in the eyes of Laker fans and prove that he is a valuable defensive anchor on a championship-winning team. The win would show the league that he has grown from his mistakes as he enters what could be the last free-agency of his career.
When the NBA first restarted in the bubble in August, reports surfaced that the General Manager of the Lakers, Rob Pelinka, had little support as the executive of the year, despite the Lakers taking the first seed in the Western Conference standings. Unsurprisingly, the under-appreciation of a front office is typical whenever LeBron is on a roster. However, the Lakers’ performance in the playoffs and finals highlights Pelinka’s success. After missing out on Kawhi Leonard late in free agency, he surrounded LeBron and Anthony Davis with versatile players such as Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Markieff Morris. Analysts often overlook the efforts of the front office, but Pelinka should deservedly gain respect across the league as an established GM, rather than Lebron’s puppet.