Since joining the NBA in 2003, LeBron James has been with four teams that have won the championship. So he knows what to expect. But when his Lakers team hoisted the Larry O’Brien trophy this year, James noticed it felt different than when he won with the Heat and Cavs. Like all things in 2020, COVID-19 changed the way the Lakers could celebrate their title. And James felt bad for his teammates who won the title for the first time.
The Lakers’ unusual championship season
Like all sports, the NBA suspended its season in March when the pandemic was first being noticed in America. After pausing for several months to figure out how to proceed for the end of the regular season and the postseason, the NBA resumed in July, with the teams being kept inside a bubble at Disney World in Orlando.
As Insider reports, there were no fans in the bubble. The Lakers weren’t able to go out to celebrate after winning the franchise’s 17th championship. Even after the team left the bubble after the season ended, things weren’t normal for a title-winning team with the city of LA not holding the typical championship parade for the Lakers.
LeBron James feels bad for his teammates who are first-time champs
James feels bad for his teammates who hadn’t won an NBA title before this year and didn’t get to experience the true celebratory feeling of winning the Finals, a list that includes such veteran players as Dwight Howard, Anthony Davis, and Jared Dudley.
James expressed his regret that “they don’t understand the power of a championship celebration. From the partying, one, to the parade, and then back to the partying.” It may be appropriate that the Lakers’ celebration wasn’t normal because nothing was normal about the NBA’s return to play in the bubble.
The celebrations James wants
James acknowledged that the locker room celebration in the immediate wake of clinching the title is “amazing.” But that celebratory feeling dissipates. The players remember the subsequent celebrations years later. James says it “burns” him that his teammates who are first-time champs don’t get to experience that this year. If you win a championship, “you should feel that,” he explained.
It’s even worse for sports fans in LA. The Lakers aren’t the only LA team that won a championship this season. The Dodgers also won the World Series in October. And James feels those two teams are missing out on a citywide celebration for both titles. On social media, James suggested having a joint parade with masks for the Dodgers and Lakers.
Was it harder to win in the bubble?
Some people discount the Lakers’ win due to the unusual nature of the postseason. But others say it was more difficult to win because of the lack of a home-court advantage. James recalled the Cavaliers’ championship run in 2016. He credited the fans for helping the team win the finals.
“If we’re down 3-1 in ’16, and we’re not going back to Cleveland, we’re just playing another game in the bubble?” he explained. “Golden State may have beaten us by 100.” James says without the series-tying Game 6 win at home, the Cavs likely would’ve lost that series.