So here we are, a year after teams reported to training camp, set to finish the wildest, most unpredictable season in NBA history. Many expected the Lakers to be here, with LeBron James teaming up with Anthony Davis to form one of the league’s most feared duos. Fewer would have bet on the Heat, a team that, like L.A., missed the playoffs last season and entered this one with a lot of unproven talent. But here we are, with James looking to knock off (one of) his former teams, with Miami looking to complete one of the most remarkable post-dynasty rebuilds in recent memory.
What to look for in this series? Let’s try to answer some questions.
Will there be an asterisk attached to this championship?
No. Hell no. It was one thing to ponder an asterisk before the NBA’s restart, when players were trickling into Orlando and the threat of a COVID-19 related stoppage seemed like a possibility. But now? Teams have largely been healthy. The games have been played at high level, higher, perhaps, than usual due to the elimination of travel, and the wear-and-tear that comes with it. Throw in the mental hurdle of finishing the season in isolation and there’s an argument to be made that not only is there no asterisk attached to this championship, it should be considered arguably the most difficult title any team has ever won.
Would a title be LeBron James’s most significant achievement?
The bucket of James’s “significant achievements” is overflowing. There’s the 2007 Cavaliers team that made the Finals with a 22-year old James flanked by Drew Gooden and Larry Hughes. There’s the back-to-back championships won in Miami. There’s the rally from 3-1 down to knock off a 72-win Warriors team in 2016. There’s the ten—ten!—Finals appearances, rarified air previously only occupied by Bill Russell, Sam Jones and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Yet there’s a strong case to be made that a title is James’s most notable accomplishment. At 35, James isn’t just a part of the Lakers surge to the Finals—he’s the driving force. His field goal percentage (54.7%) is the third highest of his playoff career. He’s averaging the second most assists (8.9) while cracking double-figures in rebounding (10.3) for just the second time. And he’s doing it in by far the fewest minutes per game (35) he’s played in a postseason. L.A., meanwhile, didn’t just best a difficult conference playoff field—they battered it, losing just three games along the way. If James and Co. do the same to Miami, this will be his crowning achievement.
The Lakers were 2-0 against the Heat in the regular season—does