Anthony Davis is totally fine being a meme. You know, the one of him sitting over on the sidelines, eyes all red and filling with tears as the final seconds of Game 6 of the NBA Finals tumble away. He's cool with all the social media photoshoppers out there who turned the pinnacle of his basketball career into a punch line because when you're a champion you absolutely do not sweat the small stuff.
“It was a cool moment," says Davis. “And it’s cool to be a meme.”
If you’ve ever played sports, you almost assuredly have imagined what it would feel like to win it all and bask in the glory of your incredible accomplishment while confetti plummets from the ceiling. Davis had his own expectations of what it would feel to be crowned a champion based on what others had told him. But looking back a month later on the most monumental night of his career, when he scored 19 points and grabbed 15 boards to help the Lakers secure the franchise's 17th NBA title, he’ll tell you the wave of emotions that hit him was so much more intense than he ever could have imagined.
“People tell you there’s no other feeling in the world like winning a championship, from a basketball standpoint, and when it happened the feeling you’re talking about wasn’t described perfect enough,” says Davis. “I can only imagine what it would’ve been like celebrating in our home arena with our fans.”
Maybe next year, if the unrestricted free agent re-ups with the Lakers like we all expect and the pandemic is under control, things will be different and Los Angeles can celebrate a repeat in front of 18,997 fans at Staples Center. For the time being we caught up with Davis Monday via Zoom to chat it up about the weirdness of winning a ring in the bubble, the moment he realized he was a champion (and became a meme), how being a Laker lived up to the hype, when LeBron James will finally earn his damn respect, and the next chapter in his partnership with Mobil 1.
(This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.)\
I saw Clayton Kershaw, the Dodgers pitcher, said he plays "We Are the Champions" every single day after LA won the World Series. You're a month removed from winning your first championship. What have you been doing to keep the high from winning going?
I haven’t been doing anything. I’ve been playing a lot of video games and just kind of resting. We start back soon. I took a couple of trips, the team and I went to a couple of places to celebrate. I haven’t really been doing anything.
"No matter what I feel like I’ll always be loved here because we own a championship. It’s a great place to win a championship, like no other place you can think of."
Do you remember the exact moment when it it hit you like, “Oh shit, I’m a NBA champion”? Do you remember that wave of emotion?
It was on video. Everybody knew from the memes. I mean, I got the PS5 and I started crying. On the sideline by myself crying, that’s when it hit me. “I’m a champion. I’m a champion.” The whole team was celebrating, seeing the confetti come down, seeing everyone celebrate, and to realize everyone saying, “Congrats, champ” it was like, “Right now, I’m a champion.” It was a cool moment. And it’s cool to be a meme.
Did the feeling of winning a title match what you thought it would be?
I think it exceeded it. Just from the point that it was so tough to win a championship, being in a bubble. To do it in that environment I think exceeded our expectations. I learned a lot about myself as a player, as a person, and I think being in that situation was beneficial for everybody. To be able to win and think like this is going to be fun, and everything like that, and it was. But when that clock hit zeros, you know, people tell you there’s no other feeling in the world like winning a championship, from a basketball standpoint, and when it happened the feeling you’re talking about wasn’t described perfect enough. I can only imagine what it would’ve been like celebrating in our home arena with our fans.
Have you given any thought to what you’re going to do with the ring?
To be honest, I’m not sure. I’ll probably wear it a little bit. But I’m not sure when I’m finished wearing what I’m going to do with it.
LeBron gave a hell of a Finals MVP acceptance speech. Why does he still need to demand his damn respect, too?
There’s nothing he can do at this point. He’s done so much at this point and people are still going to say something about him. When you’re that great, people find things to say. We have a lot of haters, lot of people that don’t like his game. But he still finds a way to silence the critics. People were saying he was washed up last year after he got hurt and came out and had one of the best seasons of his career, being able to win a championship. I think at this point, there’s nothing he can say to get full respect from everybody. I think he just has to go out there and continue to play his game, and mind you he’s been doing this 17 years. And he’s still doing at a high level and he’s still very un-guardable.
Who was the Lakers MVP in the bubble off the court? Like who helped keep you guys sane during the dog days in Orlando?
I think Jared Dudley. He was the guy that kind of kept everybody together, kept everybody sane. Let’s go do this, let’s go do that. He wasn’t playing much, but that was like his job. Ya’ll go out there compete and win and I’ll make sure the team stays together. He for sure was the bubble MVP.
And JR Smith took you out on the golf course, right? How did that go?
I’m not as good of a golfer as he is. I’m still in the learning process. You know, he golfs all day. It was just good to get out there. It’s great to clear your head and golf a little bit. I had a great time with JR.
Did you get the golf bug? Do you think it’s something you could take up one day?
Yeah. I like the game. I could see myself, as I start winding down getting into it heavily. I was going before then, too. But to play with players who really know how to play and when you get good it’s really fun, you know, not as frustrating when you go there and know what you’re doing. Just trying to continue to get better and maybe I can beat JR one day.
In what ways did being a Laker live up to the hype, in terms of what you heard from other guys before you joined the team?
I just think a historical franchise like the Lakers are…they’re used to winning. And the fans, Lakers Nation, to see that in Staples for the time that we had was amazing. And then to win it, all the love that you get…no matter what I feel like I’ll always be loved here because we own a championship. It’s a great place to win a championship, like no other place you can think of. I’m just glad I could do it for a historical franchise that’s used to winning and wants to win. It lived up to the hype that everybody said it would. It was that and more.
If you’re the commissioner of the NBA and you could pick when the 2020-21 season begins, what would be the ideal starting time for you?
February, January, mid-January. We’re just so used to our time off, especially guys who play all the way into the Finals. I mean, you get there, play six games, you don’t really have a time for your body to rest. You get right back to it. That’s kind of the only thing that sucks about it. I mean, we can’t do anything about it now. You just want to give your body time to heal after going through so much for a whole entire calendar year. We need that time to let our bodies rest, especially coming off a championship and being in a bubble for three and a half months. And we were competing every other day. We didn’t have that time off in between.
How different does your body feel after this season compared to season’s past?
My body feels good, but I’m not playing basketball right now. I’m not training very hard like I usually would because I haven’t been sure about the season. I think that before I would be training really hard right now—well, I would be playing in the season right now—but I’ll train hard for six weeks straight and then the next couple weeks decompress a little bit. Right now you’re kind of in-between. You try to ramp up and ramp down at the same time. You get that weird balance with in-season and offseason training.
But also live the good life because you are a champion.
Exactly. You still trying to celebrate a championship.
Not going to ask you about free agency specifically, but what's the craziest thing Lakers fans have said or done to try and convince you stick around LA?
I haven’t had anything like that. I don’t really be on social media like that. If they have, I haven’t seen it. I haven’t really been going anywhere just because of the COVID situation so I’ve kind of been in my own space so I haven’t seen anyone to say anything like that. But, I remember last year Kawhi [Leonard] was getting all that love from Toronto. I’m pretty sure if I see someone around, you know, I’ll hear some crazy things.
So what’s new with this latest chapter in your Mobil 1 partnership?
Mobil1 and I are partnering up again to give the fans the opportunity to win some exclusive signed apparel from me. Championship hat or championship apparel for 14 lucky fans and the sweepstakes are from now until Dec. 31 at the end of the year. All you have to do is sign up at protectyourcourt.com and have a chance to win some exclusive signed apparel from me. It gives us a chance to kind of connect with the fans and let them enjoy their championship experience as well.