Respect LeBron’s Greatness + 6 Other Observations From Game 6

LeBron James accomplished his mission when he joined the Lakers in the summer of 2018. Please appreciate the greatness we've been lucky enough to witness.

LeBron James KCP NBA Finals Game 6 2020
USA Today Sports

Oct 11, 2020; Lake Buena Vista, Florida, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) celebrates with guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (right) after game six of the 2020 NBA Finals at AdventHealth Arena. The Los Angeles Lakers won 106-93 to win the series. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

LeBron James KCP NBA Finals Game 6 2020

Just because it was anticlimactic doesn’t mean it wasn’t spectacular. Because what we saw out of the Lakers in Game 6 was an exclamation point.

Championships aren’t supposed to be punctuated in such emphatic fashion, but maybe it was fitting the most bizarre season in NBA history, and a roller-coaster NBA Finals, ended with Los Angeles running roughshod over the overmatched and exhausted Miami Heat.

The bet here, however, is only purple and gold nerds are going to remember Sunday’s 106-93 final score in favor of the Lakers while the rest of us remember it as the NBA’s most glamorous franchise returning to glory as champions of the world and basketball’s best player, LeBron James, completing a promise and remarkably re-writing the record books yet again. 

In a career filled with incredible moments, an absurd amount of accolades, and so many firsts, James added another to his remarkable résumé. His 28 points, 14 rebounds, and 10 assists in Game 6 capped another brilliant Finals for James where he averaged 29.8 points, 11.8 boards, and 8.5 assists. And while his running mate Anthony Davis had several monster game in the series, James was fittingly named the Bill Russell NBA Finals Most Valuable Player. In doing so, he became the first player in league history to earn Finals MVP honors with three different teams.

Save the GOAT debate for another day because, quite frankly, it’s beyond played out. Nothing James did is going to change the mind of Michael Jordan fans who think he’s the greatest player to ever suit up the same way LeBron-stans will tell you what James just did cements his status as the ultimate baller. Instead, how about we just marvel at James’s mastery of the NBA for a minute? In his 17th season, he just led the Lakers to their 17th championship.

So few superstars ever come close to meeting or exceeding expectations, but what James has done and continues to do statistically and historically is flabbergasting. Honestly, what else is there to say about LeBron other than, god damn, he is the definition of greatness. Also the definition of dignity and grace. Also the definition of freak of nature. 

He shouldn’t have dominated the playoffs and the NBA Finals like was just witnessed at age 35, playing in what amounts to his 20th season since he’s appeared in enough career playoff games—notably, never missing one—that he’s basically logged three extra seasons.  

And he did it in the most unique environment—down in Orlando, in the NBA’s bubble where he openly bemoaned missing his family and the energy of the fans. James also used his voice and platform to regularly remind America and the rest of the world of the racial and social inequities coursing through society. The pressures, the responsibilities he’s faced with and impeccably completes are unfathomable. On and off the court. Nobody balances them better—or at least makes it look so easy—and nobody since MJ has performed so brilliantly on the biggest stage like LeBron. I could keep gushing about James for 40 more paragraphs and drop shitton more stats or historical firsts he's accomplished on you— like one of his mesmerizing alley-oop assists to AD or thunderous dunks in transition—but I wouldn't know where to start or stop. I'd rather just acknowledge and appreciate his greatness right now. 

After the final buzzer, James’s celebration was, surprisingly, a little on the muted side. I thought he'd be overcome with emotion or jump for joy like a little kid. Maybe his reserved jubilation was a product of the bubble environment where he and his Lakers teammates couldn’t feed off the energy of the fans. But while AD hid his face in a towel near the bench, James had a mile-wide smile across his face and hugged up all his teammates. It kind of looked like a massive weight had been lifted off his gargantuan shoulders.

LeBron took his talents to Los Angeles two seasons ago to start fresh and serve as the savior of a Lakers organization that had struggled mightily for years. His goal wasn’t to just return them to the playoffs, like he did this season for the first time in six years. His goal, he stated very clearly after he accepted Final MVP honors, was to make the basketball world respect the purple and gold again. That included his coach Frank Vogel, whose hiring was much maligned. That included general manager Rob Pelinka, whose inexperience and roster building were heavily criticized. That included owner Jeanie Buss, whose team had become irrelevant until LeBron arrived. That included his Lakers teammates, who weren't supposed to be good enough to get it done with him. It also included an individual who absolutely shouldn't have to ask for it. 

“I want my damn respect, too,” James said.

Mission accomplished.  

Here are six more observations from Game 6. 

4: Number of NBA Finals MVPs James now has—two with the Heat, one with the Cavs, and one with the Lakers. James also became the fourth player in NBA history to win Final MVP honors at age 35 or older joining Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain, and Bill Russell.  

There are also now four players that have won championships with three different squads in NBA history. James and Danny Green just joined Robert Horry and John Salley in exclusive and/or obscure club.

172: Number of games played in the bubble down at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports from July 30 to October 11. The bubble was a success. Let’s hope we never see another one in our lifetime.

“I've said this before, when we were on those calls in April and talking about a potential bubble, you know, I think all of us thought that that seemed pretty ambitious,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said before the game. “But looking around, this clearly is the most successful way to do it in sports and we're just grateful that we have this opportunity.”

17 Is Playoff Rondo’s Magic Number

Anthony Davis Rajon Rondo Game 6 NBA Finals 2020

In your daily reminder that this world is full of clowns and certified losers, Green received death threats after he missed the series-clinching 3-pointer in Game 5. One of the nicest guys you’ll meet in the NBA, the absolute last thing Green deserves are threats to his and his fiancé’s safety after the couple was harassed Friday night on social media. 

“Obviously that crosses the line, if that's occurring, certainly crosses the line,” Vogel said. “This is sports. It's a game. We all want to root for our fan bases, for our teams, but certainly that crosses the line.”

Why Green would be singled out by a few deplorable who would never have the balls to say a bad thing to Green’s face is simultaneously infuriating/totally believable in this screwed up society we live in. Green wasn’t the reason the Lakers lost. If Markieff Morris doesn’t throw away that entry pass to AD off of the Green miss and Davis converts, nobody cares that Green came up short. But Twitter tough guys are gonna do what they do: shoot their mouth off while hiding behind a keyboard.

To his credit, and his exemplary character, Green took the high road when asked about the threats.

“I hope they don’t take it that seriously,” Green said. “I hope that they’re that passionate about voting or injustice for these people who deserve justice—we’ll get some better change along the country. But it’s a basketball game at the end of the day and I know they’re just taking out their emotions and they need somebody to blame and it came down to that last play. Of course I’m the easy target.”

Surprise, Surprise

Goran Dragic Miami Heat Game 6 2020

We don't know when next season will tip off, but as of right now, oddsmakers have installed the Lakers as the favorites to win the 2021 NBA title. Free agency and some crazy trades could obviously change up these odds in the coming weeks and months, but for entertainment purposes, it shouldn't come as a surprise that Las Vegas has pegged the Lakers as the team to beat. 

Lakers: +375

Clippers: +400

Bucks: +600

Warriors: +800

Nets: +1000

Celtics: +1200

Heat: +1500

Latest in Sports