It’s Been a Long Road for the Lakers

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Alex Bates, Staff

Before the Lakers championship victory in the NBA bubble, the last time the Lakers were champions was a decade ago. The decade between the two victories has been filled with a fair share of highs and lows. To understand how the Lakers got to where they are now and to truly appreciate their championship victory, we need to rewind.

Just after the Lakers won in 2010, longtime Laker coach and arguably the greatest coach of all time, Phil Jackson, announced that he would be retiring at the conclusion of the 2010-11 season. It was his last attempt to achieve the goal of a three-peat after doing so three times before. The Lakers eventually fell short to the eventual champion, Dallas Mavericks, in the playoffs, and with that loss, an era that saw five NBA championships in 10 years in Los Angeles ended.

The following year, former MVP Steve Nash and three-time defensive player of the year Dwight Howard arrived in Los Angeles to play for the Lakers. They were accompanied by the infamous Sports Illustrated cover declaring that “This is going to be fun.” It was anything but. The players never meshed and Kobe Bryant tore his Achilles tendon late in the season, effectively ending his prime and any chance of him winning another championship. The last few years of his career constituted the darkest period in history for the Lakers. By the time Kobe retired in 2016, the team was a shell of the one that won six years before.

The next couple of years were focused on acquiring and developing young players who could become potential stars. This process was accelerated greatly by the arrival of Lebron James. He arrived in the city of angels to restore the Lakers to their previous status as the premier NBA team. His presence means that whatever team he is on will always be in the hunt for an NBA championship. It necessitates greatness.

The first year of Lebron’s tenure as Laker was going according to plan until December when Lebron suffered an injury and missed a large portion of the remainder of the season. The team then fell out of the playoffs and Lebron ended up missing the playoffs for the first time since his rookie season.

This failure was a blessing in disguise. It showed that Lebron needed a seasoned superstar teammate who could pull their weight. The Lakers had their eyes on Anthony Davis of the New Orleans Pelicans ever since Lebron arrived and they were finally able to acquire him in the summer of 2019. The trade transformed the franchise overnight into a favorite to win the championship and inspired Laker faithful that they do so.

But with every high that the Lakers have reached in the last decade, this past year’s high was accompanied by a new low. NBA and franchise legend, Kobe Bryant, tragically died in a helicopter crash at the beginning of this year. A memorial service was held at Staples Center featuring speeches from NBA legends like Shaq and Michael Jordan. However demoralizing and depressing Kobe’s death was, the team rallied behind him. He was frequently cited as an inspiration in their victories and members of the team often said they were going to win a title for his family. Players wore ‘Black Mamba’ jerseys, designed by Kobe and titled after his nickname. They wanted to win one for the city he left untitled during the final years of his career.

The past decade has been exciting at times and disappointing at others. No legend has ever retired in the way Kobe did by scoring 60 in his final game, no player has ever meant so much to a team as he did, and no team has ever won a title in the environment the Lakers did it in. This recent championship victory was won in the face of overwhelming adversity and means that the Lakers have finally reclaimed the right to be called the best team in the NBA.