After a lackluster showing during the regular season, Rajon Rondo proved to be a difference-maker for the Los Angeles Lakers during their 2020 championship run. Rondo was key in orchestrating the offense and even showed how effective of a defender he could be.
The veteran point guard made history by becoming just the second player to win a title with the Lakers and Boston Celtics, doing so 12 years apart. Rondo is the first to accomplish the feat with the Celtics and L.A. Lakers.
Rondo won his first championship against the Kobe Bryant-led Lakers in the 2008 NBA Finals and cemented himself as one of the game’s best point guards at the time. Like the rest of the team, Rondo was playing in Bryant’s memory during the postseason.
“Obviously winning for Kobe has been in my mind for a while,” Rondo said. “Just the respect he’s given me throughout my career, and I’ve watched him for so many years and tried to mimic how he controls the game. He does his with scoring, but if you look at every other aspect of his game, its elite as well. He was a basketball savant, one of the greatest minds I’ve ever played with.
“Being on the court with him and competing at a high level, his grit, his grind, the way he played every possession was definitely an honor to play against a guy like that and helped me elevate my game at a young age. I got to compete against Kobe Bryant when I was 21. So his game and his legacy speaks for itself.
“Me being a kid from Louisville, Kentucky, to be able to compete with Kobe two years into the league, understand and learn so much from him by watching his film and by studying him, it’s definitely an honor. And to come full circle to win in his honor, his daughter’s honor, unbelievable season that we’ve had.
“And to be able to prevail and stay focused and continue to get the job done, I know something, he’s definitely smiling down on us. And we’re able to fulfill our dream and succeed with the championship.”
Although they never suited up on the same team, Rondo and Bryant shared a mutual respect for each other as they are widely considered to be two of the most intelligent players to ever play the game of basketball.
Rondo believes 2020 title was harder to win than 2008
The NBA’s bubble environment was a success, but numerous players have come out and said it was arguably the hardest thing they have experienced in their basketball careers. Rondo was one of the veterans on the Lakers roster who had already won a championship, but he admitted that his most recent one was the more difficult one to obtain.
“This one, by far, is the hardest one,” Rondo explained the night of winning the title. “Family is everything, and not being able to see your family for so long, it takes a toll on you mentally.
“Like I said, for us, we’re not eating normal food as far as our normal routine regiments. I didn’t eat today, so that was taking a toll on the mind and the body. Proper rest, not sleeping in your proper beds, on a certain schedule. So it was a lot different.
“People might say travel was different or no fans, but mentally this one was tough. Like I said, being here for a hundred days, I was fortunate — well, I wasn’t fortunate, I had an injury so I went home for a while. But the time I did spend here, the best thing about it was just being with my teammates every day and winning.”
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