When Americans look back on 2020 in 50 years, some will tell their grandkids that the world as they knew it changed when a Utah Jazz player named Rudy Gobert tested positive for a strange and deadly disease called COVID-19 and the NBA season shut down.
The world had been forever changed and a depressing state loomed over the nation.
For Lakers fans, this horrible year did not begin in March, like it did for the rest of America. It started on the last Sunday morning in January when a Sikorsky S-76B helicopter slammed into the side of a hill in Calabasas. The TMZ headline was breathtaking when it came across, and its three words left little wiggle room for hope: KOBE BRYANT DEAD.
The whole world stopped in its tracks and mourned together. An overwhelming sadness consumed everyone, but it remained in Los Angels permanently.
Los Angeles from February until now has been like attending a wake at every stop light. Two-hundred and twenty five Kobe Bryant murals were created in Southern California alone. Billboards and businesses posted in memory of Kobe.
Kobe’s life, and his death, were inescapable in the city of Los Angeles. A part of the city and culture died when he did.
But on Sunday night, Lakers fans in L.A. and around the world were gifted this year’s most precious and scarce resource — joy.
The Los Angeles Lakers captured their 17th NBA Championship on Sunday, capping off the most trying year in franchise history. Playing through a pandemic that has taken over 214,000 lives. Fighting for social justice and pushing for people to vote. And of course the tragedy of losing the greatest Lakers player of all-time.
The Lakers were back on top of the basketball world. For one glorious night, life felt normal again.
It is title 17 for the Lakers but given everything, this one means more.
Sports are supposed to provide a needed break from the stressors or our lives and provide a sense of belonging. As it turned out, sports were never more important than they were in 2020.
What the Lakers accomplished this year should be applauded like no other.
They had to start, stop and start a season again. They had to play in a bubble across the country from their home, isolated from their family and friends. They had to live up to the championship-or-bust expectations that come with playing for one of the premier franchises in sports. They had to win one for Kobe.
They did it all.
So wear your Lakers jerseys. Be unapologetic about your fandom. Let the critics hear every second of your celebration. Dismiss the takes that this championship doesn’t count. When someone says the Lakers got lucky, take it with a grain of salt.
LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Frank Vogel and the rest of the Lakers won this NBA title for themselves and for the Bryant family. But they also won it for you.
The Lakers deserved this title. YOU deserve this title.
The purple and gold rose from the ashes to be NBA champs. Enjoy it.