During the 2019-20 NBA season, LeBron James got one step closer to Michael Jordan, as he won his fourth NBA championship by winning the title with the Los Angeles Lakers. It was a year full of adversity, too, as the Lakers not only had to mourn the tragic death of Kobe Bryant but they also had to play in the NBA bubble after going on a months-long hiatus due to COVID-19. However, the fact that they won the title in the bubble seems to be why NBA legend Charles Barkley doesn’t think their championship counts.
LeBron James and the Lakers won an NBA championship in the bubble
The 2019-20 NBA season was maybe the strangest in league history. The COVID-19 pandemic ultimately forced play to get suspended, and teams eventually resumed the season in the NBA bubble in Orlando months later.
Prior to the season’s suspension, the Lakers were already one of the best teams in the NBA. They were 49-14 and appeared to be in a great position to win James his fourth NBA title. Then, after struggling a bit when kicking things back off in the bubble, the Lakers ultimately picked up where they left off in the playoffs.
LA won in five games in each of the first three rounds of the postseason, which led to them facing the Miami Heat in the 2020 NBA Finals.
The Heat then gave the Lakers a tough fight in that series, but LA won in six games to claim the 2020 title. James averaged 29.8 points, 11.8 rebounds, and 8.5 assists to win his fourth Finals MVP award.
However, according to Barkley, none of this counts.
Charles Barkley doesn’t think the bubble counts
Barkley recently appeared on The Dan Le Batard Show With Stugotz, and he trolled Le Batard about the Miami Heat, saying they are “mediocre,” in which Le Batard replied: “They were in the finals six months ago.”
Barkley, though, doesn’t seem to care about bubble basketball.
“There was a bunch of bubble gangsters; that don’t count. Bubble gangsters don’t count,” Barkley said on the June 4 episode.
So, what about James and the Lakers? Does their championship count?
“I’m never going to say a thing about LeBron; he’s a great player and a great dude,” Barkley said. “But listen: I’m not counting the bubble. Let’s stop it.”
Is Charles Barkley right about LeBron James’ fourth title?
That’s a pretty bold claim that Barkley made about the 2020 playoffs. So, is he right?
No. If anything, the Lakers’ championship should count more.
Teams had a four-plus month hiatus where they didn’t play at all in 2020. Yet, when the Lakers got to the bubble, they picked up where they left off, proving that they were the real deal before the league’s suspension and not just a team like the Milwaukee Bucks who got hot and rode the coattails of Giannis Antetokounmpo to start the season.
The Lakers also dominated their competition in the playoffs, never playing in a seven-game series and only going past five games in the NBA Finals. Dominating that significantly shows that they more than likely would have beat their opponents in a regular postseason with fans and homecourt advantage.
All in all, though, James and the Lakers went on a magical run in the NBA bubble and won a championship. Everything clicked at the right time for them, and they did what they were supposed to do, as they beat their competition with ease. In a typical season, people would have praised a team for doing that.
So, yes, James’ fourth championship counts, the Lakers’ 17th title counts, and the Heat actually made the NBA Finals. Maybe, Barkley would understand that had he been on a championship team during his NBA career.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference