As a Miami Heat fan, it somewhat pains me to say...the Los Angeles Lakers are the 2020 NBA Champions! Beating the Heat four games to two, the Lakers clinched the title with last night’s game six win. After the tragic loss of Kobe Bryant earlier this year, seeing the Lakers as champions feels right.
In a unanimous vote (rightfully so), LeBron James was named NBA Finals MVP. This is LeBron’s fourth time to earn the award and he's the first player to ever do so with three different teams. With the win, the Los Angeles Lakers officially tied the Boston Celtics with most NBA Finals wins at 17. This is only the beginning of many final firsts this year, as well as record breakers.
Another first goes to LA Laker Rajon Rondo. The former Kentucky Wildcat is the first player to ever win a title for both LA and Boston.
Rondo didn’t stop there adding his name to the NBA record books. Rondo tallied up 33 assists in this NBA Final, helping him jump two more spots in all time playoff assists. He now sits at the number six spot passing Hall of Famers' Steve Nash and Larry Bird. In total, Rondo had 104 assists in the 2020 playoffs – the most off the bench since the 1970-71 season. Rondo brought some much needed veteran experience to this Lakers roster, but he wasn’t the only former Wildcat to do it.
Anthony Davis is the first former Kentucky Wildcat coached by John Calipari to win an NBA title. Davis played a huge role helping Kentucky win the 2012 NCAA Championship. The win feels right.
Davis also became the eighth player in history to win an NCAA Championship, NBA Championship and Olympic Championship. James and Davis are the first dynamic duo in NBA history to average 25 points per game on 50% shooting in a postseason. Depending on Davis' approach to off-season free agency opportunities, if he resides with LA, there could be a dynasty brewing between James and Davis.
Though this series didn’t make it to game seven, there’s no denying that the Miami Heat put up a fight. The Heat pulled out two wins in the series that showcased an impressive pair of triple-doubles from Jimmy Butler.
It's worth noting that barring injuries, the outcome might've been different. Two of their best players, point guard Goron Dragic and former UK Wildcat Bam Adebayo, suffered injuries in the first game. Dragic was sidelined until the finale. Adebayo came back in game four, but the injury did affect his play. While playing below his skill level, he did lead the team in points and rebounds in the game six loss with 25 and 10.
Miami Heat rookie Tyler Herro definitely made a name for himself in the playoff run. The former Kentucky Wildcat became the youngest player ever to start in an NBA Final at 20-years-old. He also ended the season with the most three pointers made by a rookie in both the playoffs and NBA Finals.
Herro scored double-digits in 20 straight playoff games – the longest streak by a rookie in NBA history. Miami ended the season losing the NBA Finals, but with Butler and the two young former Wildcats coming back...that's something to look forward to. The team may be a few pieces away with great potential to win it all in the next year or two.
LA Lakers head coach Frank Vogel was a student manager and assistant video coordinator for the University of Kentucky from 1995-1998. He worked under Coach Rick Pitino and Coach Tubby Smith and was part of Kentucky’s 1996 and 1998 National Championships. This was Vogel’s first year as head coach for the Los Angeles Lakers and first NBA Championship. If Vogel’s career is anything like former Wildcat and Miami Heat President Pat Riley, he’s on the right track.
In the 80's, Riley won his first NBA title as a head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers and turned it into a dynasty with three more championships. Vogel could be coaching a Laker dynasty headed by James and Davis. Time will tell.