Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers reclaim their throne

After 10 long years, the Los Angeles Lakers are finally back on top and have brought the Larry O’Brien trophy back home. 

The last time the Lakers won a championship in the National Basketball Association was in June of 2010 when they defeated their rivals, the Boston Celtics. After this victory, the Lakers went on to struggle for the next decade. 

The season following the title win, the Lakers lost the Western Conference semifinals to the Dallas Mavericks, which showed the first warning signs of the destruction of the Lakers.

After losing to the Mavericks, the Lakers decided to make a few roster changes. In the offseason, the Lakers engaged in a three-team trade that would have sent point guard Chris Paul to the Lakers from the Charlotte Hornets. The Hornets would have received Lamar Odom from the Lakers and Kevin Martin, Luis Scola and Goran Dragic from the Houston Rockets. The Rockets in return would have received Pau Gasol from Los Angeles. 

Opposing owners in the NBA contacted former commissioner David Stern and complained that the Lakers would be too strong, resulting in him vetoing the trade. This caused the Lakers to lose a few all-stars. 

Soon after, Phil Jackson decided to retire which forced the Lakers hiring of former coach Mike Brown. In his first season as head coach, Brown led the Lakers to a 41-25 record in the 2011-12 season, but were then swept in the playoffs by the Dallas Mavericks. 

That next season, Brown was fired after five games when the Lakers started the season 1-4. Interim head coach Bernie Bickerstaff stepped in and coached the next five games and he went 4-1 as head coach. During that time the Lakers were looking for a new coach and hired Mike D’Antoni. 

Coach D’Antoni came in the rest of the 2012-13 season and coached the team to a 40-32 record, but the Lakers were swept in the first round yet again by the San Antonio Spurs. 

Over the next few seasons, the downward spiral continued. In the 2013-14 season, the Lakers fell to a 27-55 record. They did not qualify for the playoffs, ultimately leading to the firing of coach D’Antoni following that season. 

In need of a quick replacement, the Lakers hired head coach Byron Scott. The roster included Nick Young, Robert Sacre, Ryan Kelly and of course, the late Kobe Bryant. But the Mamba could not do it alone and in the 2014-15 season, the Lakers fell to a 21-61 record. 

The 2015-16 season was no better. Although the Lakers drafted D’Angelo Russell, they still finished with a record of 17-65. During that time period, the Lakers held the worst record in the NBA. They also set a franchise record of a 10-game losing streak in January that season. 

That season also happened to be the last season Kobe Bryant stepped foot on the court. Bryant in his farewell tour had opposing arenas chanting his name. A memorable game that season was when the Lakers faced off against the Celtics in Boston. Chants of “Kobe” and “MVP” filled the arena, although the Lakers and Celtics are storied rivals. During his final game, the Mamba scored an iconic 60 points and led the Lakers to a victory over the Utah Jazz. 

Following the tough year, coach Scott was fired preceding the end of the season. The Lakers brought back one of their former players, Luke Walton, from the Golden State Warriors to take the helm and guide the Lakers. 

The Lakers drafted Brandon Ingram that offseason hoping that the young star would bring some light to Los Angeles. Unfortunately, Ingram and D’Angelo Russell could not help the Lakers emerge out the dark, as they finished the 2016-17 season with a 26-56 record.

In the 2017-18 season, the Lakers added a few all-star names to their list. They signed Brook Lopez, Isaiah Thomas and Kentavious Caldwell Pope. They also drafted Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma and Alex Caruso. With the roster changes, Walton was able to coach his team to a 35-47 record that did not qualify for the playoffs.

The Lakers’ luck changed in 2018-19. The Lakers were able to sign the superstar that they needed in LeBron James to a four-year contract. With this addition to the team, they were able to secure the fourth-seed up until the Lakers’ Christmas Day game. James suffered a groin injury that sidelined him for the rest of the season, causing the Lakers to lose place of the fourth-seed and miss the playoffs once more.

That offseason, the Lakers made a huge roster change. They traded Ball, Ingram, Josh Hart, three first round picks, and the fourth-overall pick in the 2019 draft for Anthony Davis. With roster spots opening up, the Lakers signed veterans like Rajon Rondo, Danny Green, Dwight Howard, Javale McGee, Jared Dudley and Avery Bradley. 

The Lakers also signed Frank Vogel to be their next head coach to lead the team full of superstar talent. They started the season with their goal of winning an NBA championship and jumped to the first seed. For the first time in over six years, the Lakers were looking like the favorites to win it all. 

On January 26, tragedy struck the Lakers with the passing of Kobe and Gianna Bryant.

Devastating not only the team but also fans and the community, the loss served as motivation for the Lakers to win the championship. They wanted to win it all for Kobe and they worked even harder to do so. 

In March, more troublesome news came as the NBA season was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Fans and players wanted the season to continue, but there was no safe way of doing so. Early July, NBA commissioner Adam Silver started working on the idea of having a bubble in Florida. 

Top seeding teams in the NBA were invited to the bubble and played eight regular season games before beginning the playoffs.

The Lakers maintained their position as the number one seed, beating the Portland Trailblazers in five games in the first round. The following round, they beat the Rockets in five games as well as beating the Denver Nuggets in five in the Western Conference Finals.

Following their success, the Lakers were back to the NBA Finals for the first time in a decade. However, the Heat did not go down without a fight. They fought hard but ultimately, the Lakers were able to defeat them in six games, once again hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy. 

Now with the season over, Laker fans are anxious to see who stays with the team as they compete for a record 18th title next season. 

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