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Will Lakers survive the scorching Heat?

By People Daily
Wednesday, September 30th, 2020
Bam Adebayo (left) of the Miami Heat dunks the ball against Kemba Walker of the Boston Celtics during the fourth quarter in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2020 NBA Playoffs at AdventHealth Arena at the ESPN Wide World Of Sports Complex on September 27, 2020 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. Photo/AFP
In summary

Orlando, Tuesday

LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers begin the final challenge in their bid to return to the summit of basketball on Wednesday when they take on the Miami Heat team in game one of the NBA Finals.

A full 11 months after the 2019-2020 NBA season first tipped off, a marathon campaign plunged into crisis by Covid-19 and tumultuous social unrest finally reaches its climax in Orlando.

The fact that the NBA season has managed to reach the home stretch is itself a  triumph of sorts, a testament to assiduous planning by league officials to create a secure “bubble” at Disney World in Florida.

Since July, teams have been housed at the sprawling entertainment park in Orlando, largely sequestered from the outside world and the raging coronavirus crisis which has claimed more than 204,000 American lives.

Even then, the season has not been immune from external forces. A month ago, the season threatened to unravel as a tide of anger against racial injustice prompted teams led by the Milwaukee Bucks to boycott games.

The Lakers, who will be chasing a 17th NBA championship against Miami in the finals, were one of two teams who reportedly voted to abandon the season altogether on August 26 following the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha.

That walkout threat was only headed off by the intervention of former President Barack Obama, who reportedly counseled James and other players against a season-ending boycott.

A little over one month later, and the 35-year-old James is now girding himself for a 10th appearance in an NBA Finals, a tally bettered by only two players in the history of the league.

It also marks the vindication of James’ decision in 2018 to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Lakers, a faded superpower of the NBA who were floundering before his arrival two years ago.

Although James first season in Los Angeles ended in disappointment, with injury restricting his appearances and the team once again failing to make the playoffs, the bolstering of the squad with Anthony Davis last year, who has formed a superb partnership with James, returned the team to dominance.

“This is what I came here for,” James said on Saturday after the Lakers defeated the Denver Nuggets to clinch the Western Conference championship and book a place in the finals.

“I heard all the conversations and everything that was said about why did I decide to come to LA (that) the reason I came to LA, it was not about basketball.

“All those conversations, just naysayers and things of that nature. I understood that, with the season I had last year and my injury, it just gave them more sticks and more wood to throw in the fire to continue to say the things that they would say about me.

“But it never stopped my journey and never stopped my mindset and never stopped my goal.”

The Lakers’ odyssey back to the finals has also been marked by tragedy. In January, the team was plunged into mourning following the death in a helicopter accident of franchise legend Kobe Bryant.

A determination to honour Bryant’s legacy has driven the Lakers into this year’s finals.   -AFP