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 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 Finals since Michael Jordan finished his first three-peat against the Charles Barkley-led squad in 1993. Phoenix has never won a championship. The Bucks haven’t been to the Finals since losing to the Boston Celtics in 1974, led by Laker legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who won their only championship in 1971.
Lakers fans are split down the middle as Lakers Nation conducted a poll on who they would prefer to root for in the Finals, so this list represents part one of the reasons to root for each team.
First off, let’s look at three reasons it’s ok for Lakers fans to root for the Suns in the 2021 NBA Finals.
1. The Lakers Will Have Been Eliminated By The Best
History often repeats itself. In 2011, The Lakers were swept by the Dallas Mavericks while being favored to win a championship after having won two straight titles.
However, no one aside from Lakers fans looks back at the 2011 championship as anything more than the Mavericks beating the favored Miami Heat led by current Lakers superstar LeBron James. NBA fans now recognize that the Mavericks were the best team that year, whereas the Lakers faced tons of scrutiny during the playoffs when they were eliminated.
Ten years later, the Lakers are coming off yet another title, having been favored to win and eliminated. Of course, it’s hard to believe the Lakers would have been eliminated in the first round without Anthony Davis having been injured, but nonetheless, they will have to wait until next year.
With the Suns representing the Western Conference in the Finals, nothing would look better for the Lakers than if the Suns win the NBA championship. If this happens, especially in a dominant performance, this year will be remembered as a remarkable run by the Suns rather than for the Lakers shortcoming as they will have been eliminated by the best.
2. The Devin Booker-Kobe Bryant Connection Is Real
“Be Legendary” was the phrase Kobe Bryant wrote on Devin Booker’s shoes during Kobe’s final season and Booker’s first after the only game they played against each other.
With Booker’s mid-range attack, sharp-shooting prowess from anywhere on the floor, and ability to create his own shot, he has earned comparisons to the all-time Laker great.
Not only that, but Booker has never been shy about his love, admiration and respect for the late, great Black Mamba. Booker has even gone so far as to call Bryant his idol, mimicking Bryant’s fadeaway jumper growing up.
“Devin Booker is the next Kobe Bryant. It is official.”
— First Take (@FirstTake) June 21, 2021
While Stephen A. Smith may have exaggerated by calling Booker “the next Kobe Bryant” on ESPN, it’s no wonder that people are at least comparing the two players.
Booker now has “be legendary” tattooed on himself, and he has lived up to legendary status in the playoffs so far with a 47-point closeout game against the Lakers and a 40-point triple-double to open the Western Conference Finals. Booker dedicates many of his performances to Bryant.
With Bryant’s stamp approval on Booker’s play style, it is perfectly fine for Lakers fans to relish in those Kobe-esque pull-up jumpers during this year’s Finals.
3. Chris Paul Has A Lot of History With The Los Angeles Lakers
Although Chris Paul has never been a Laker, he has a fascinating history with the team, including when he was almost traded to the Lakers. The trade was nixed due to the now-infamous phrase, “basketball reasons,” but Paul seemed very disappointed that he wouldn’t be joining the Purple and Gold.
Not only that, but Paul was great friends with Bryant to the point where he got him a cane as a joke for retirement. Paul has revealed he spoke with Kobe about playing together and wished they had while also admiring him so much that he once kept a pair of Bryant’s shoes after the Lakers legend scored 50 points on him during the 2006-07 season.
Paul is also great friends with current Lakers superstar LeBron James as they are part of the “banana boat crew,” having vacationed together and grown up together in the NBA. LeBron has even mentioned how he would love to play with Paul one day.
There has been lots of talk around the NBA about this possibility, including Magic Johnson saying Paul would be a perfect fit with the Lakers. Of course, it remains to be seen if Paul would leave, but the prospect of him fulfilling his championship dreams (or not) and then ending his career playing with one of his best friends is an interesting one that would benefit the Lakers.