Antony Davis, from the back, and LeBron James have said they want to win the championship for Kobe Bryant, the Lakers star who perished in a helicopter crash last January. (Mark J. Terrill)
Lake Buena Vista, Florida. LeBron James vs. the Heat.
Pat Riley vs. the Lakers.
Prepare for the NBA Finals – a championship series like no other, to close out a season like no other.
The Miami Heat and the Los Angeles Lakers have emerged as the last two teams standing in the battle to be crowned champions for the most tumultuous season in NBA history. Miami won the Eastern Conference title Sunday night, dispatching Boston the day after the Lakers took the Western crown.
So for the first time – well, excluding the league's first season – two franchises that missed the playoffs last season will meet in the Finals.
The first episode of the Heat-Lakers series will be Wednesday night at the Walt Disney World bubble.
“We are clear why we are here,” said Lakers star forward Anthony Davis, whose first appearance in a title series comes in his first season with the historic Los Angeles team. “We want to win a championship. We are four victories away, one step closer to our goal ”.
Jimmy Butler is one of the players who has made it possible for Miami to get into the NBA Finals. (Archive / EFE)
James is aiming for a fourth NBA championship, and the third with a different franchise. He is also about to become the first player to be the MVP of a Finals with a team and then face that same team in a later series for the title. His first two titles were with Miami in 2012 and 2013, the highlights of a four-year cycle with the Heat that ended in 2014.
That was the last time Miami was present on this stage. James decided to return to Cleveland long before the Heat had calculated, Chris Bosh was diagnosed with blood clots – a condition that ended his career – and Miami went from glory to mediocrity in the blink of an eye.
With a young core led by Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro, the veteran Goran Dragic and the addition of Jimmy Butler a year ago, the Heat are back in the running, long ahead of schedule, surprising themselves.
We are clear about why we are here. We want to win a championship. We are four wins away, one step closer to our goal “
”Anthony Davis / Lakers Forward
But Riley – a four-time champion during a seven-year stint as coach of the “Showtime” Lakers – is not known for being patient.
Think big. That's why James and Bosh were signed to join Dwyane Wade in 2010. That's why they got Butler in 2019, even though they didn't have the money to invest in free agents. That's why he added Andre Iguodala, Jae Crowder and Solomon Hill in February, letting go of Justise Winslow, James Johnson and Dion Waiters. Remarkably, Waiters finished off the Lakers and will now be seen with the Heat in this series.
“To dock here, all you have to do is be hungry to win,” Butler said days ago. “It's the main thing. Try to win a championship. And we are a group that goes out to fight for that every night, every day ”.
Of course the Lakers have the same goal.
His slogan in these playoffs has been “Leave a Legacy”, alluding to the great Kobe Bryant – the Lakers legend who perished, along with his daughter Gianna and seven others, when his helicopter crashed on January 26.
The Lakers' last championship was won in 2010, when Bryant claimed his fifth and final title. James has played in the Finals in every year since, save one. A LeBron-Kobe duel for the crown could never be crystallized, but it has played a very final in which James and the Lakers will have Bryant very much in mind.
For them, in a year in which the pandemic paralyzed the league on March 11 and the fight against racial inequality and police brutality led to an unprecedented season, the ideal outcome is to honor Bryant with the 17th Lakers championship. .
“We are very clear about what we want,” Davis said.