Three years ago, Alex Caruso wasn’t a household name. Hell, even two years ago, Caruso was certain that LeBron James didn’t know who he was and he had already appeared in a handful of games for the Lakers.
Now, Caruso’s name and countless nicknames are known across the globe, and he thinks they hold more weight now that he’s an NBA champion.
“There was always kind of a little bit of buzz for me given the state of Lakers basketball and the come-up that I’ve had, and the exposure that I’ve gotten over the last year, year and a half, two years,” Caruso said. “But I think now maybe it’s a little less people just saying my name and calling out, and now it’s a little bit more recognizable of achievement.
“I think they understand that I played a big role in us trying to get to the championship and us winning the championship, I think that’s something they appreciate now. Lakers fans already were in love with me I think, now it’s just kind of doubled over.”
Caruso had already established himself as a fan favorite in the season prior, and he justified the fanfare with a productive regular season campaign. But his legend grew bigger than anyone could have ever imagined in the postseason.
In Game 6 of the NBA Finals, Lakers head coach Frank Vogel moved Dwight Howard to the bench in favor of Caruso, who had never started a playoff game and had only started two games in the regular season. That gutsy adjustment by Vogel propelled the Lakers to a comfortable 106-93 win over the Miami Heat in Game 6, which gave Caruso his first-ever championship.
Caruso may never see his name in the rafters at Staples Center like his teammates LeBron James and Anthony Davis likely will after they retire, but his name will forever be synonymous with the championship banner that will be raised. For a guy that only signed his first fully-guaranteed NBA contract last summer, that’s a pretty damn cool legacy to have.