On the 26th of September, LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers eliminated the Denver Nuggets in game 5 of the Western Conference Finals with a score of 117-107. They will now be playing in the NBA Finals, and this Finals appearance–which will begin on the 30th of September–will be LeBron’s 10th, with his previous one having been in 2018.
LeBron’s path towards reaching his 10th NBA Finals has been very challenging: after his 9th appearance, he left the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Lakers. The switch of teams and conferences brought up the challenge of adaptability and competition level, as the Western Conference is known to be the most difficult of the conferences (east and west): several skilled teams take part in the conference, such as the Golden State Warriors, the Los Angeles Clippers, and the Houston Rockets. However, even with such competition, LeBron managed to reach the Finals yet again, in his second season.
This time around, LeBron will be facing the underdog team Miami Heat, lead by Jimmy Butler and subsequent rising stars such as Tyler Herro. How do the Lakers stack up against the Heat? Well, it is in consensus that the Lakers are the favorites of the series, given their All-Star power in Anthony Davies and LeBron James–considered to be the two best players currently in the NBA. Furthermore, the team itself has a lot of motivating factors. These factors include having won the championship despite their city rivals–the Clippers–being the favorites, and winning the trophy in memory of Kobe Bryant, a former Laker legend who sadly passed away in January, as well as individual motivations for each of the members.
This doesn’t mean, however, that the oddsmakers are underestimating the Heat. The Heat managed to defeat the Milwaukee Bucks and the Boston Celtics in back-to-back series in which they were considered the “underdogs.” Furthermore, LeBron James was part of the Miami Heat organization between the years of 2010 and 2014, and the management–Erik Spoelstra and Pat Riley–of those years is still present: they know LeBron’s physiological and emotional weaknesses inside and out, which may prove to be an advantage when playing against him. Given both teams’ good form so far in the Playoffs, the series could be a close 5-7 game series.
Regarding my own opinion, I think that the Lakers will win the series and the Championship in 6 games. I have seen the footage of the games, and at the end of game 5 against the Nuggets, during the celebration, LeBron James was spotted sitting on the floor–not celebrating–with a very focused look on his face. This makes it seem that LeBron is set on winning his 4th championship and does not intend to loose for the 7th time in the NBA Finals. I have seen him make that particular face before: in 2012, as part of the Miami Heat, in an Eastern Conference Finals series against the Boston Celtics in which the Heat were down 3-2–one loss away from elimination and humiliation. At the beginning of the game, LeBron had a mean and vindictive look on his face, implying a true desire to win, and it showed: he scored 45 points, which gave Miami a 17 point victory over the Celtics. Knowing the rare times LeBron has shown that amount of determination and the results that tend to follow, I believe it will push the Lakers over the edge to win it all.
(LeBron James during the Western Conference victory celebration, 2020)
(LeBron right before game 6 kickoff against Boston, 2012)