By David Awopetu
LeBron James played a pivotal role as the Los Angeles Lakers ended a 10-year wait for a 17th NBA title as they beat the Miami Heat 106-93 to seal a 4-2 series victory on Monday morning.
The Finals’ most valuable player James posted a triple double – scoring 28 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists – with both Anthony Davis and Rajon Rondo adding 19 points.
Victory ties the Lakers with the Boston Celtics for the most NBA championships.
“It means a lot to represent this franchise,” James, who has won NBA titles with Miami Heat and Cleveland Cavaliers, told reporters moments after the win.
“I told [Lakers president] Jeanie [Buss] when I came here that I was going to put this franchise back in the position where it belongs.
“We just want our respect. Rob [Pelinka] wants his respect, coach [Frank] Vogel wants his respect, our organisation wants its respect, Lakers nation wants its respect.
“And I want my respect too.”
Before this season the Lakers had failed to reach the play-offs for six consecutive years but they were one of the favourites for this campaign given their star-studded roster.
The NBA Finals would have been concluded by June but for the global spread of coronavirus that shut the season down on 11 March, hours after it was declared a pandemic and several players tested positive for the virus.
The season eventually re-started on 31 July, but with no fans courtside. Played behind closed doors at Walt Disney World in Florida, players entered a bio-secure bubble – which the Lakers will now leave after more than 90 days away from friends and family.
The Lakers last won an NBA title in 2010 and the six years they failed to reach the play-offs starkly illustrated their fall from grace.
James becomes the first player in NBA history to be named Finals MVP with three different teams (Lakers, Cavaliers and Heat). Now with four MVPs to his name, he trails only Michael Jordan, who won six.
“Thinking I have something to prove fuels me,” said James. “No matter what I’ve done in my career up to this point, there’s still little rumblings of doubt, comparing me to the history of the game… ‘Has he done this, has he done that?’
“Having that in my head, saying to myself why not still have something to prove, I think it fuels me.”