Highlights of this day in history: President Richard Nixon says ‘I am not a crook’; Elizabeth I becomes Queen of England; Suez Canal opens; Congress holds first DC session; Sculptor Auguste Rodin dies; Film director Martin Scorsese born. (Nov. 17)
This season, for LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers, had it all. And it ended in the only fashion that they deemed would be acceptable, with them back atop the basketball world.
For the first time since Kobe Bryant’s fifth and final title, a decade ago, the Lakers are NBA champions. James had 28 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists, and the Lakers beat the Miami Heat 106-93 on Sunday night to win the NBA Finals in six games.
“Our organization wants their respect. Laker Nation wants their respect,” James said. “And I want my damn respect, too.”
Anthony Davis had 19 points and 15 rebounds for the Lakers, who dealt with the enormous anguish that followed the death of the iconic Bryant in January and all the challenges that came with leaving home for three months to play at Walt Disney World in a bubble designed to keep inhabitants safe from the coronavirus.
WATCH | Lakers summit basketball world:
Los Angeles Lakers defeat Miami Heat 106-93 to capture a record-tying 17th championship. 1:39
It would be, James predicted, the toughest title to ever win.
“We have a Ph.D in adversity, I’ll tell you that much,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “We’ve been through a lot.”
They made the clincher look easy. James won his fourth title, doing it with a third different team—and against a Heat franchise that showed him how to become a champion.
Bam Adebayo had 25 points and 10 rebounds for Miami, which got 12 points from Jimmy Butler — the player who, in his first Heat season, got the team back to title contention. Rajon Rondo scored 19 points for the Lakers.
With that, the league’s bubble chapter, put together after a 4 1/2-month suspension of play that started March 11 because of the coronavirus pandemic and came with a promise that it would raise awareness to the problems of racial injustice and police brutality, is over. So, too, is a season that saw the league and China get into political sparring, the death on Jan. 1 of commissioner emeritus David Stern — the man who did so much to make the league what it is — and then the shock on Jan. 26 that came with the news that Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven other died in a helicopter crash.
The Lakers said they were playing the rest of the season in his memory.
They delivered what Bryant did five times for L.A. — a ring, and the clincher was emphatic.
“You have written your own inspiring chapter in the great Laker history,” Lakers owner Jeanie Buss said. “And to Laker Nation, we have been through a heartbreaking tragedy with the loss of our beloved Kobe Bryant. Let this trophy serve as a reminder of when we come together, believe in each other, incredible things can happen.”
Game 6 was over by halftime, the Lakers taking a 64-36 lead into the break. The Heat never led and couldn’t shoot from anywhere: 35 per cent from 2-point range in the half, 33 per cent from 3-point range and even an uncharacteristic 42 per cent from the line, not like any of it really mattered. The Lakers were getting everything they wanted and then some, outscoring Miami 36-16 in the second quarter and doing all that with James making just one shot in the period.
Lakers celebrate record-tying 17th championship after victory over Heat in Game 6. 1:14
Rondo, now a two-time champion and the first to win rings as a player in both Boston and Los Angeles — the franchises now tied with 17 titles apiece — was 6 for 6 in the half, the first time he’d done that since November 2007. The Lakers’ lead was 46-32 with 5:00 left in the half, and they outscored Miami 18-4 from there until intermission.
Ball game. The 28-point halftime lead was the second-biggest in NBA Finals history, topped only by the Celtics leading the Lakers 79-49 on May 27, 1985.
“We didn’t get the final result that we wanted,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “But even what I mentioned to the guys, these are going to be lifetime memories that we have together. This locker room … we’re going to remember this year, this season, this experience and that locker room brotherhood for the rest of our lives.”
True to form, the Heat — a No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference that finished with a losing record last season, a team that embraced the challenge of the bubble like none other — didn’t stop playing, not even when the deficit got to 36 in the third quarter.
A 23-8 run by Miami got the Heat to 90-69 with 8:37 left. But the outcome was never in doubt, and before long confetti was blasted into the air as the Lakers’ celebration formally and officially began.
“Laker Nation,” Vogel, now a first-time champion bellowed. “We did it.”
The German – Arsenal’s highest-paid player – has not played a minute since the Premier League resumed after lockdown in June and was again absent from the squad for the Gunners’ 2-0 Carabao Cup win over Leicester on Wednesday.
Ozil is in the final year of his contract at Arsenal and has shown no intention of forcing his way out before it expires, despite his chances of getting back into the team looking slimmer by the day.
“I try to select the players that are, in my opinion, in better condition,” Arteta said of Ozil’s omission for the 17th consecutive game.
“You can see that the players we are changing, we are using, it’s very difficult every week, not for Mesut but for some other players as well to make the squad. Every week we try to pick the right players.
“It’s difficult for others as well that aren’t involved in the Premier League and didn’t play tonight either. We have a squad of 26, 27 players at the moment and we can’t give playing time to all of them.
“The team is evolving, you can see the level they are achieving. This is where we are at the moment. We want to evolve more and play better and compete better. We have to keep maintaining that.
“We are picking the players that we believe are the best for each game. You can see we keep training, it’s what we’re trying to do.”
Hampered by back pain and subsequently knee concerns, the 23-year-old indicated afterwards he hoped to continue out of respect for the race.
But on the morning of Wednesday’s queen stage to the Col de la Loze above Meribel, his team Ineos Grenadiers announced the Colombian was withdrawing from the race, although it did not specify the reason for the decision.
“This is obviously not how I wanted my Tour de France to end, but I agree that it is the right decision for me in the circumstances,” Bernal said.
Bernal was in 16th place overall, 19 minutes and four seconds behind race leader Primoz Roglic.
The decision comes five days short of the race’s concluding stage in Paris.
“We have taken this decision with Egan’s best interests at heart,” Ineos Grenadiers team principal Dave Brailsford said.
“Egan is a true champion who loves to race, but he is also a young rider, with many Tours ahead of him and at this point, on balance, we feel it is wiser for him to stop racing.”
Bernal had pulled out of the Criterium du Dauphine with back pains last month.