While the Los Angeles Lakers won’t have the opportunity to defend their title this year, that doesn’t mean Lakers fans can’t find a way to enjoy watching the NBA Finals. This year’s NBA Finals features two teams that we aren’t used to seeing in the Phoenix Suns and Milwaukee Bucks.
The Suns haven’t been to the NBA Finals since Michael Jordan finished his first three-peat against the Charles Barkley-led Suns in 1993 and have never won a championship. The Bucks haven’t been to the NBA Finals since losing to the Boston Celtics in 1974, led by Laker legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who won their only championship in 1971.
Laker fans are split down the middle as Lakers Nation conducted a poll on who they would prefer to root for in the NBA Finals, so this list represents part two of reasons to root for each team. Next up, let’s look at three reasons it’s ok for Lakers fans to root for the Bucks in the 2021 NBA Finals.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Became A Champion With The Bucks
The year was 1971, and it was so long ago that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was still known as Lew Alcindor. However, this year was still significant for Lakers fans as one of the greatest Lakers of them all won his first championship as a member of the Bucks.
The Bucks are where Kareem became a champion and a three-time MVP. Without this torrid run as one of the league’s premier players, he may not have had the stature to have his trade request granted to join the Lakers in 1975 and end his career with five more championships, three more MVPs and the all-time scoring record.
Another reality is that the culture of Milwaukee in the mid-west didn’t fit Kareem’s “cultural needs” as a social justice hero, which were so impactful that he had an award recently named after him for his social justice efforts. Of course, Milwaukee has changed since the mid-’70s, but if it weren’t for what their culture was at the time compared to the rich and diverse culture of Los Angeles, the Lakers might have never had a foundational piece of the ‘Showtime’ era.
Multiple Bucks Players Have Lakers Ties
Lakers fans love rooting for former Lakers such as Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson and D’Angelo Russell. Part of this is because they began their careers with the Lakers, and while Brook Lopez didn’t begin his career with the Lakers, he did play for them in the post-Kobe era.
Not only this, but Lopez expressed that playing for the Lakers was a ‘dream come true,’ which makes sense considering that Lopez was born in North Hollywood, California. Speaking of California natives, Jrue Holiday is another Bucks player with Lakers ties as he was born in Los Angeles and grew up idolizing Kobe Bryant and Magic Johnson.
Last but not least, Giannis Antetokounmpo is undoubtedly the star of the Milwaukee Bucks, and his brother Kostas Antetokounmpo won an NBA championship with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2021 as a bench player. Ironically, he won a championship before his superstar brother Giannis, who looks to win his first with the Bucks this year.
Giannis’ Relationship to Lakers’ Past and Present
Giannis Antetokounmpo has connections to the Lakers that relate to both Laker legend Kobe Bryant and current Lakers superstar LeBron James. First of all, Giannis earned the opportunity to train with Bryant, even showing up three and a half hours early to train with him.
Giannis has previously said that Bryant was one of his biggest influences growing up and one of his biggest inspirations to pick up a basketball. That was why Giannis took the initiative to ask the Black Mamba for one of his Mamba Mentality challenges.
Initially, the only players Bryant challenged publicly were DeMar DeRozan and former Laker Isaiah Thomas. However, Giannis asked Kobe what his challenge would be, which ended up being to win the MVP.
— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) August 27, 2017
In the spirit of the Black Mamba, Giannis not only went on to win the MVP but did so a second time and then challenged himself to become a champion, which he may be four wins away from doing. Giannis may have idolized Kobe, but the player he’s drawn the most comparisons to is LeBron.
One reason for the comparison is their play styles. Both are oversized small-forwards who can run the floor and pass the ball while being absolute forces of nature at the rim.
The two scariest sights in basketball are LeBron or Giannis running full steam ahead at the rim as they can dunk with ferocity or make the smart decision to dish the ball out to a player on the wing when necessary. Giannis even called LeBron ‘the best in the world‘ earlier this year.
Giannis may believe LeBron is the best, but if Giannis can somehow win Finals MVP with a devastating knee injury, there’s a chance Giannis can hold that title himself. With the respect Giannis has for Laker legends and all the Bucks’ ties to the Lakers, it makes perfect sense why fans are split down the middle and can enjoy the 2021 NBA Finals regardless of who wins.