After LeBron James’ first season with the Los Angeles Lakers ended in the disappointment of not making the playoffs, many questioned whether the franchise was capable of returning to the top of the NBA.
One season later, James and the Lakers were hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy, and one person who deserves a lot of credit is vice president of basketball operations Rob Pelinka.
Despite coming under a ton of scrutiny in the summer of 2019 thanks in large part to what Magic Johnson had to say following his resignation, Pelinka simply put his head down and went to work in building the roster around LeBron.
A trade for Anthony Davis was the first step, but the signings of free agents Danny Green, Avery Bradley and Dwight Howard were key moves as well.
Pelinka was willing to put in the work and it was that mindset that gave LeBron himself the belief that the Lakers would be back in championship form. “What gave me faith is that Rob Pelinka told me he would do whatever it takes to make sure that we would become a winning franchise once again,” James explained.
“Obviously, championships are not promised, and I don’t expect that. But he said he would do whatever it takes to make this franchise, whatever personnel changes he needs to make, any part of our organization, he would do it, because he wanted to win just as much.”
Of course, Pelinka was also the best friend of the late, great Kobe Bryant and hearing what LeBron had to say about him it makes sense why the two were so close. But James also found motivation in bringing owner Jeanie Buss back to the promised land as well.
“And for me, being able to get Jeanie back to this point, that’s something that fueled me as well,” James noted. “This is a historic franchise and to be a part of this is something that I’ll be able to talk about and my grandkids and kids will be able to talk about; their pawpaw played for the Los Angeles Lakers.
“It’s like playing for the Yankees and winning or playing for the Cowboys and winning a Super Bowl, or the Patriots. It’s like playing for the Red Sox. So to be able to win with a historical franchise is something that, no matter if your mind wavers away, you can always remember what you’re doing it for.”
The Lakers are one of the greatest franchises in sports that was in the midst of its worst stretch ever. In order to get out of that it takes the effort of the entire franchise from the owner down to the last player on the bench.
From Buss to Rob, down to James and the rest of the roster, the Lakers had that. And James takes pride in the fact that he was a part of this journey.
LeBron: Lakers fans don’t care ‘what you’ve done before’
Before he ever came to the Lakers, James was a three-time champion and considered by many to be the greatest player in NBA history. But for a franchise like the purple and gold that only means so much.
Lakers fans are an extremely passionate and outspoken group and James quickly became aware that all of his prior accomplishments meant nothing.
“What I’ve learned being a Laker is that the Laker faithful don’t give a damn what you’ve done before,” he recently said. “Until you become a Laker, you’ve got to do it with them as well. They don’t care about your resumé at all until you become a Laker. Then you’ve got to do it as a Laker, and then they respect you. I’ve learned that.”
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