By leading the LA Lakers to their 17th NBA title in franchise history, LeBron James added a fourth championship ring to his collection. But the four-time NBA Finals MVP knows that playing in the bubble made a huge difference this time around.
In fact, he put everything in perspective by bringing up the 2016 NBA Finals. And let’s just say James thinks the epic series between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors would have ended much differently if the two teams had played in a bubble championship scenario.
The Cavaliers defeated the Warriors in the 2016 NBA Finals
LeBron James finally got his taste of championship glory with the Miami Heat. But after winning two rings in four years with the franchise, the Ohio native took his talents back to Cleveland.
James promptly led the Cavaliers to an NBA Finals appearance against the Warriors. However, Stephen Curry and Co. proved too much for Cleveland to handle. Golden State captured its first championship since the 1974-75 season by taking down James and his lackluster supporting cast in six games.
Ironically, the two teams met again in the 2016 NBA Finals. This time around, though, James wouldn’t walk away in defeat.
Although the Warriors won the first two games in convincing fashion, they suffered a 30-point road loss in Game 3. Curry responded by pouring in 38 points to give Golden State a commanding 3-1 series lead.
With their NBA title dreams fading away, the Cavaliers staged a furious comeback. After extending the series to a seventh game, Cleveland completed its championship run thanks to a clutch fourth-quarter shot by Kyrie Irving.
LeBron James knows a bubble championship scenario would have played out much differently
LeBron James just won his fourth NBA title, albeit under very different circumstances. Instead of competing in front of tens of thousands of fans, NBA players got cheered on by a virtual crowd. Plus, teams didn’t have to travel or deal with home-court advantage issues.
The topic of a bubble championship came up during James’ recent appearance on the Road Trippin’ podcast. In catching up with former teammate Richard Jefferson, he explained how differently the 2016 NBA Finals would have gone if the Cavaliers and Warriors had been forced to play under similar circumstances as NBA players did in 2020.
“If we’re down 3-1 in ’16, and we’re not going back to Cleveland, Golden State may have beat us by 100,” James said.
Obviously, having home-court advantage played a significant role in the Cavaliers’ title run. In a win-or-go-home scenario, Cleveland won by 14 points to tie the series at three games apiece before Irving’s shot silenced the Warriors’ home crowd in Game 7.
In a bubble scenario, the Cavaliers may very well have lost Game 6 without the benefit of fans in the stands. But luckily for the Lakers and their biggest star, it won’t matter where the 2021 NBA Finals take place. Because barring a major injury to James or Anthony Davis, LA should have no trouble capturing its second straight championship.
Expect the Lakers to take home another NBA title this season
The Lakers officially secured their title dreams this week by locking up LeBron James and AD on long-term deals. That capped off a series of impressive offseason moves by general manager Rob Pelinka.
Since winning the NBA Finals, LA has gone to work reshuffling its roster.
The Lakers stole Montrezl Harrell from the LA Clippers on a two-year contract. He should earn plenty of playing time as a high-impact bench player.
In addition, the Lakers added another dynamic player in Dennis Schroder. The 27-year-old shot a career-high 46.9% from the field last season. He also connected on a personal-best 38.5% of his 3-point attempts. Schroder and Alex Caruso give the Lakers two rock-solid options at point guard.
Overall, the Lakers boast not only tremendous star power but also incredible depth. With a bench that includes Wesley Matthews, Kyle Kuzma, and Markieff Morris, LA can afford to rest James and Davis more during the regular season to keep them fresh for another title run.
Expect the Lakers to add another championship banner to their collection. And don’t be surprised if James and AD win a couple more rings together before the NBA icon calls it a career.
All statistics courtesy of Basketball-Reference.