It has been 7 years since the Lakers have last been in the playoffs.
It has also been a longer 10-year drought since the Lakers won their last championship.

This year’s title run has been a long time coming for the Southern California team, and there seems to be a heightened sense of urgency from the players, the coaching staff, and even the fan base for the Lakers to deliver the championship.

What makes this year’s playoff run considerably more crucial?

The Bubble

Just the fact that this is the first time in league history that there has been a “bubble” is already a major factor in itself. The NBA Bubble in Orlando has been a great idea formulated by the NBA to finish up the 2019-2020 season and crown an NBA Champion.

There were debates focused on if the eventual title holders should have an asterisk due to the whole situation. Although the players, fans, and the league all had to adjust to the games being played in this new environment, at the end of the day, a winner will still be crowned.

Whoever the champions are at the end of the season will be remembered in NBA history not just for winning it all, but for winning it all amidst very unusual circumstances.

The Rivalry

The franchise has been one of the best teams since the league first began in 1946. The Los Angeles-based team has won 16 NBA championships in franchise history, the second-most in the NBA, right behind the 17 titles of their rival, the Boston Celtics. Fans have been accustomed to star-studded Laker teams, winning championships even dating back to their days in Minneapolis.

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Securing the Larry O’Brien trophy this year would put them in a deadlock with the Boston Celtics for most titles by a single franchise in the NBA – and this will give the Lakers a much stronger case to be called the best franchise in the league.

The Player Achievements

A championship is always worth celebrating. With the Laker roster this year, winning the title would be very noteworthy for the individual accolades of the players. If the Lakers indeed win it all, some of the team members, such as veterans Dwight Howard and Jared Dudley, will be winning their much anticipated first ring. But no first-timer is more notable than star big man, Anthony Davis. This will be the all-star’s first title in his 8-year career, possibly bringing him more into the discussions of the greatest power forwards in history.

Other team members, like JR Smith and Quinn Cook, will be winning their second rings after they won back in 2016 and 2018 respectively. But if there is one player whose second ring would have a lot of meaning, it would be Rajon Rondo. The veteran point guard won his first title back in 2008 with the Laker rival, Boston Celtics. As he has since moved over to the other side of the rivalry, winning a ring could make it significant because he would be the first player in history to win a ring with both the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers.

Last but not the least, is Lebron, who would win his fourth career title – only the 40th ever to accomplish this. This would be his first with the Purple and Gold, but it would be the third team he would have won a championship with, a feat that only 2 other players in history have achieved. Lebron would have a much stronger case in the Greatest of All Time debate, as he will be only one ring behind Kobe and Magic, and two behind Mike. Lebron is the centerpiece of the team, so everyone is eager to see if he can lead the Lakers to the elusive title this year.

For Kobe

The whole world was shocked and saddened earlier this year when the news broke out that Laker legend Kobe Bryant, along with his daughter Gigi and 7 other individuals, died in a horrific helicopter crash in California. Everyone, especially the die-hard Laker fans, went into mourning, losing someone they have looked up to, and someone who has meant so much to them. The Lakers as an organization had such a difficult time coping with the loss that they even had to cancel their first game following the incident.

Photo: Harry How

The purple and gold franchise were able to power through sooner or later, and they promised to dedicate the rest of the season to the Black Mamba. Their first game back, the team made sure to make it a point that they were doing it for Kobe. The crowd were all given commemorative Kobe Bryant t-shirts.

The numbers 8 and 24, the two numbers worn by the superstar guard throughout his Laker career, were painted on the court. Players all wore number 8 and number 24 Kobe Bryant jerseys on top of their warm-up gear. A ‘KB’ logo was also displayed in multiple ways: as a patch stitched unto the chests of the jerseys, as a pin worn by the coaching staff, and also painted unto the hardwood. And who could forget the tribute the team had before the game, highlighted by Lebron giving a short speech straight from the heart.

Lebron ended his heartfelt speech by saying:

“So in the words of Kobe Bryant: ‘Mamba out.’ But in the words of us: ‘Not forgotten.’ Live on, brother.” 

The Lakers have not forgotten him. The Lakers continue to think of him as they go for the Larry O’Brien trophy. They will even be wearing the Black Mamba city edition jerseys, which we co-design by Bryant himself, during the playoffs. They would wear these jerseys starting game 4 against the Blazers, which is scheduled on ‘Mamba Day’ (8/24).

Winning it all for Kobe Bryant would mean everything, not only to the players and the team but to the city and the whole Laker fan base. In a season that has been so tough and challenging for everyone, it would be bittersweet, but a perfect ending.

Mamba Forever.

Written and dedicated to Kobe Bryant.

Featured Image: Harry How
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