Over the last three years, plenty of basketball fans, especially on social media, have attempted to discredit the Los Angeles Lakers’ 2020 NBA championship because it happened under very strange, once-in-a-lifetime circumstances.
But Bam Adebayo, a star big man on the Miami Heat team the Lakers faced in the NBA Finals that year, pushed back on those claims. He actually said the 2020 title was actually the “hardest championship to win.”
Bam says the NBA Bubble was the “hardest” championship to win 😳
— Playmaker (@playmaker) December 27, 2023
“That was the hardest championship to win, in my opinion,” said Adebayo. “Fifteen deep, plus coaches, staff, whatever you need, training staff, but other than that, it’s you, your thoughts in one room boxed in. … It felt like you was gang affiliated when you was in the bubble. Lakers got on purple and gold. We got on black. The [Milwaukee] Bucks got on they green, and nobody was walking by they self.”
The Lakers opened that season with some coy optimism and high hopes after they had traded for superstar Anthony Davis over the previous summer. The previous season was their first with LeBron James, and it ended in disastrous fashion, as they failed to make the playoffs.
They lost their opening game of the 2019-20 regular season to the Los Angeles Clippers, but from that point on, they won games in bunches and started to look like a gathering storm. By mid-December, they were a gaudy 24-3, and their defense was as tough as a military tank.
The season was put on pause in March as the COVID-19 pandemic hit critical mass. But just prior to that, L.A. won back-to-back games against the Milwaukee Bucks, who had the league’s best record, and Clippers in less than 48 hours.
It then sliced through the playoffs, getting past the Portland Trail Blazers, Houston Rockets and Denver Nuggets with ease before putting away the Heat to claim its world championship. LeBron James was named Finals MVP for the fourth time after a masterful series in which he averaged 29.8 points, 11.8 rebounds and 8.5 assists a game on 59.1 percent shooting.
Since then, the Lakers have struggled to regain their mojo. But they salvaged a measure of it last spring after the trades that brought them Rui Hachimura, D’Angelo Russell and Jarred Vanderbilt. With their newly calibrated roster, they made it all the way to the Western Conference Finals despite starting the 2022-23 season 2-10.
So far this season, they have struggled to put together any sincere momentum, but perhaps James and company will put themselves into the conversation for this season’s Larry O’Brien Trophy.
Winning it would certainly validate the one they earned in the Walt Disney World Resort bubble in 2020.