The Los Angeles Lakers have two opponents in the Western Conference Finals — the Denver Nuggets and the altitude of the Ball Arena. The Nuggets’ home stadium is 5,280 feet, or one mile, above sea level, earning the “Mile High City” moniker.
It creates a unique home-court advantage with players having to catch their breath more often. LeBron James has spoken about the altitude in recent matchups, specifically in 2021 when he said it wasn’t that much of a factor for him.
However, it still is a major part of the preparation of teams. Through the years, teams have used various strategies to brace themselves for the altitude. Kobe Bryant took matters into his own hands, smoking a cigar the night before a game in Denver to open up his lungs.
It’s unclear if anyone on the Lakers will do the same, but LeBron acknowledged that the altitude is a legit factor, according to Dan Woike of the L.A. Times:
“Yeah, it’s real,” LeBron James said when asked about it. “…You get tired a lot faster than you would if you wasn’t in it.”
The matchup between the Lakers and Nuggets is a rematch of the 2020 Western Conference Finals. The Lakers were able to come out on top in that series, winning in five games. But these are two different teams now.
Only James and Anthony Davis remain from that Lakers team. Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. are the lone players from Denver. Current Nuggets’ starting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope started for the Lakers then. And two current Lakers — Jarred Vanderbilt and Malik Beasley — were on the Nuggets in 2020, though they didn’t play in the playoffs.
LeBron emphasized the differences between this current Nuggets team and the one they played three years ago:
“They’re better,” James said. “But they were great then and they’re great now. I think Joker [Jokic] has gotten two more years under his belt. And Jamal has gotten back to his regular form after the injury. And the rest of those guys have been playing exceptional basketball. They’re a really, really, really, really, really good team.”
In three games against the Nuggets this season, LeBron averaged 25 points, seven rebounds and seven assists. The Lakers will need that type of production to advance to the NBA Finals.
Film of LeBron being stockpiled by “The Last Dance” Filmmakers
The 2020 release of ESPN’s “The Last Dance” documentary about Michael Jordan’s final season in Chicago served as the perfect way to pass time during the coronavirus. Viewers across the country were glued to their TVs on Sunday nights, looking for an escape from reality.
It seems the same type of documentary may come to life for James. Lakers radio voice John Ireland revealed on the Awful Running podcast that footage is being stockpiled for LeBron’s version of “The Last Dance.”
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