In just his second season in purple and gold, LeBron James has carried the Los Angeles Lakers to its first NBA Finals appearance since 2010. One step closer to the promised land of an NBA Championship.
The Lakers won the title in 2010, with a seven-game series win over the Boston Celtics. Well, it’s safe to say a lot has happened in the last decade of basketball. It’s been a decade of dominance for James, who prepares to face his former squad Miami Heat in this year’s upcoming finals.
The last time we saw the Lakers in the NBA Finals, James hadn’t made his decision to head to Miami, he hadn’t yet made his 10 finals appearances, and this league was very much Kobe Bryant’s, not his. Let’s reminisce about what the NBA looked like in 2010 because the NBA landscape has seen a complete transformation just 10 years later.
Los Angeles Lakers Return to NBA Finals; First Time Since 2010
2010 Finals: Kobe Bryant and Los Angeles Lakers own the League
Rewind the clock back to June 16, 2010. As the purple and gold confetti fell down from the rafters in Staples Center, Bryant lifted up his fifth Larry O’Brien NBA Championship Trophy of the decade. It was the icing on the cake. The league was symbolically owned by Bryant and the Lakers.
The late-Bryant took home his second-straight NBA Finals MVP and NBA championship that season. He was an All-Star every year during the 2000’s decade. He won the All-Star Game MVP three times in that decade. All en route to five championships in seven appearances.
Bryant also won the last two championships without his former superstar teammate Shaquille O’Neal. As basketball fans will remember, these last two championships sans Shaq cemented an all-time legacy for Bryant.
"The bowtie to an unbelievable, undeniable career.”@Jpdabrams revisits the Lakers' last championship run in 2010 with Kobe
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) September 22, 2020
But, 2010 was a transformative year for the historical NBA narrative. There was an individual waiting in the shadows of Bryant and the Lakers. Waiting for his moment. Yes, fans may have expected James to dominate this next decade of basketball, but probably not to the degree that he has.
The first step? James beat out Kevin Durant and Bryant for his second-straight NBA Most Valuable Player Award in 2010. James’ team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, took home the best record in the league that year but were bounced early in the Eastern Conference Semifinals by Boston.
This, of course, was another vital event in the story of this narrative. This was the second-straight season James and the Cavaliers finished with the best record in the NBA. And, the second-straight season they were bounced earlier-than-expected in the playoffs.
And yes, little did fans know what was coming next.
The Decision: LeBron James’ Most Important step in Developing his Legacy
Fast forward this narrative to July 8, 2010. The Decision or the most important decision James has made in his basketball life.
It took two heartbreaking end-of-year finishes in Cleveland to push King James to this decision. Two-straight years of coming up short. At the time, in his tenure with the Cavaliers, James actually came up short five times. Five-straight playoff appearances, including one NBA Finals appearance, but not what he wanted.
Other than the regular season accolades and triumphs, James was missing what he wanted most. An NBA title. Why are championships so important to James? After coming into the league in 2004 straight from high school, he was dubbed as the best prospect we’ve ever seen. The next Michael Jordan, the next Kobe, the next generational superstar talent.
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) April 3, 2019
Yet, seven years into his tenure in Cleveland, he was accomplishing everything except that coveted championship trophy. Enough was enough.
We all remember the theatrics of “The Decision.” Whether we agreed with the optics of this, his decision had been made. James opted to join two NBA superstars, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, in Miami. With the first-ever “superteam” in NBA history, James had decided it was time to learn to win.
2020: Yes, it’s still LeBron James’ League
This article won’t detail every up and down of James’ tenure with the Heat, then back to the Cavaliers, and now the last two years in Los Angeles. Instead, let’s fast forward to the present day. It’s September of 2020 and for the last 10 years, James has owned the NBA. With this latest NBA Championship appearance, it’s time to admit he still does.
In his 17th season, James has become just the fourth player in league history with at least 10 NBA Finals appearances. The other names on that list? Bill Russell, Sam Jones, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Hall of Fame company.
NBA FINALS APPEARANCES
LEBRON: 10 👑
— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) September 27, 2020
After heading down to Miami, James won his first-ever title in 2012. He added two more in 2013 and 2016, including bringing home the first-ever NBA championship to his home city of Cleveland.
So, how good has this last decade been? Certainly, it’s been Hall of Fame worthy.
Since 2010, James has won three NBA titles. He’s made nine finals appearances in 10 years, save for his injury-riddled campaign last year. He’s also made 10-straight All-Star appearances, won three AP Athlete of the Year awards, and made nine appearances on the All-NBA First Team.
Simply put, he’s been the best basketball player on the planet for the past decade. And at 35-years-old, he was the league-leader in assists, was an All-Star, was named to the All-NBA First Team, and named a finalist for the Most Valuable Player award. The NBA is still, very much, LeBron’s league.
LeBron James vs. the Miami Heat: Blast from the past
LeBron James and the Lakers will square off against Jimmy Butler and the Heat in this year’s NBA Finals. This finals matchup offers basketball fans some of the best storylines in NBA history.
James squares off against his old team, the Heat. The same team that taught him how to win, how to take that next step and win titles. And for Los Angeles, a championship this season means more than ever before. If the Lakers win, this will mean title number 17. That would tie the franchise with the Celtics for the most NBA titles in league history.
More importantly, this title offers Los Angeles an opportunity to honor the late-Bryant in the best way the team knows how: championships.
For the Heat, a championship in 2020 would be unique. Of course, this franchise has a chance to defeat their former superstar talent in James. And Butler, a five-time NBA All-Star, makes his first-ever finals appearance.
Regardless of the outcome, the 2020 NBA Finals will be “must-watch” TV.
Embed from Getty Images