The journey to the 2020 NBA championship was a long one for the Los Angeles Lakers, filled with ups and downs that no franchise could imagine.
From the beginning there seemed to be a budding rivalry between the Lakers and the L.A. Clippers that most assumed would come to a head in the Western Conference Finals. But the Clippers fell in the second round to the Denver Nuggets, squandering a 3-1 series lead.
After bringing in Kawhi Leonard and Paul George there was a bit of belief that the Clippers would be trying to take over the city of Los Angeles. The franchise put out billboards all across the city and of course there was the infamous Leonard commercial for New Balance that alluded to a takeover of the city along with an apparent shot at LeBron James.
But the Lakers never got involved in the rivalry off the court as far as commercials and things of that nature. As one senior executive said to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN, the only thing the Lakers cared about is winning championships:
Said one senior Lakers executive: “While some of our so-called rivals spent literally hundreds of millions of dollars trying to win media cycles, we kept our heads down and focused on basketball — because the only thing we’ve ever cared about winning is championships.”
This has always been the most important thing to the Lakers franchise. When push comes to shove the ultimate goal is always to win championships and everything else is secondary. That is something that began with Dr. Jerry Buss and has now been passed down to his daughter Jeanie Buss as she has taken over the reins.
Many laughed at the Lakers when Leonard spurned them to join the Clippers, believing they had ruined their chances at building a reasonable roster around LeBron and Anthony Davis, but the front office proved them wrong.
Adding the likes of Danny Green, Avery Bradley and Dwight Howard, while retaining Rajon Rondo, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Alex Caruso and JaVale McGee turned out to be the right moves. Not to mention signing Markeiff Morris in the buyout market.
The rivalry between the two teams is far from over and the Clippers may well continue their media push, but as long as the Lakers keep winning championships they couldn’t care less about anything else.
Pelinka emotionally reflects on confidence from Kobe
One of the many issues the Lakers dealt with this season was the tragic death of Kobe Bryant. His passing rocked the entire world, but was obviously felt most within the Lakers organization and undoubtedly with vice president of basketball operations Rob Pelinka who was his longtime agent and one of Kobe’s closest friends.
“Kobe’s voice is always in my head. Always,” Pelinka following the Lakers championship victory.
“There would be times in my hotel room here, when you’re in a bubble for a hundred days, it’s tough,” he added. “There would be times in the middle of the night, I would hear his voice, ‘Stay the course. Finish the task.’”
“To be able to share this moment right now, knowing that he and Gianna are looking down from heaven, and I know he’s a proud friend. When I took the job, I remember he said, ‘Hey, I know what you did for me for 20 years.’ He said, ‘I’ll give you two, three years, you’ll fix this. You’ll get the Lakers back on top.’
“I guess you were right, man. You gave me the energy to do it.”
Have you subscribed to our YouTube channel? It’s the best way to watch player interviews, exclusive coverage from events, participate in live shows, and more!