The Los Angeles Lakers may have only been crowned champions of the NBA last Sunday, but the talk of their title having an asterisk next to it started long before then, and it’s not hard to understand why: They didn’t go through the grind of the 82-game regular season, they didn’t have to play in hostile territory and they got nearly four months of rest. However, just because the logic is easy to follow doesn’t mean it’s correct — it isn’t.
The challenges the Lakers faced on their way to their 17th title weren’t the same challenges that past championship-winning teams have faced, but “different” does always mean “easier.” In fact, in a recent interview with Rachel Nichols of ESPN, LeBron James and Anthony Davis revealed that the mental and emotional challenges of the Orlando Bubble almost caused them to give up on their championship run:
LeBron: “When you’re a guy who loves his family and does it for the family, you have moments where you question ‘is it worth it? Being away from your family like this? Is it worth it?’”
Davis: “It was (hard) every night. That’s why we was always in each other’s rooms.”
LeBron: “That’s why we was always together.”
Davis: “We are each other’s family. The entire team. And we stayed in each other’s rooms, playing video games, doing whatever we can to stay together, because we knew it was going to be tough and we wanted to make sure that we had each other’s backs. And it showed on the floor and off the floor. You’d call your family and they’d say ‘No, you’re not coming home. What? Go win a championship and then come home.’ You need that reassurance to make this all worth it.”
Of course, James and Davis didn’t leave the Walt Disney World Resort, and when their season ended, it was on their terms. But revelations like this are an example of why this year’s title shouldn’t be discounted, and why James has gone on as far as to say that this was the “toughest” championship run of his career.
It’s also why this championship has been so sweet to celebrate. It might have taken longer than any championship in NBA history, but it was well worth the wait, and hopefully the Lakers feel that way too. Judging by this video of Davis and J.R. Smith, it might take as long as it took for them to get the title for them to get over it.
Enjoy your offseason, guys. You earned it.