One. More. Win.
Over the last two days, those three words have likely been uttered by every Los Angeles Lakers fans as they imagine the confetti dropping down from the ceilings on Oct. 9.
After 77 wins in 90 games during the 2019-20 NBA season, the Lakers just need one more to solidify themselves as champions during possibly the most grueling time in league history.
You might be thinking that 90 games are not too many, in fact, it only eight more than in a typical regular season. While that might be true, the Lakers have actually been waiting 835 games to get this chance yet again. It has been an accomplishment 10 seasons, seven head coaches, one President of Basketball operations fiasco, and two superstars in the making.
However, we are finally here.
All throughout the offseason, the Lakers and their fans had to listen to countless media organizations count them out. Although it was different people, the criticism was always the same: The Lakers do not have enough talent around Anthony Davis and LeBron James to win a championship.
Well, tell that to Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who just stepped up in a big way during Game 4 in perhaps the most important game of his entire life.
Tell that to Alex Caruso, who has managed to disrupt superstars the likes of Damian Lillard, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden on defense during the playoffs.
Even try telling it to Dwight Howard and Rajon Rondo, each of which has embraced their role on the team and absolutely thrived within it.
They would probably laugh.
In all reality, the Lakers had enough surrounding their two superstars the entire time. Did they have a supporting cast as strong as the Clippers which featured Lou Williams, Montrezl Harrell, Reggie Jackson, and Marcus Morris?
No, they did not, but we see how that worked out for the Clippers in the end. All along, the sheer greatness of pairing James and Davis together was being overlooked. Sure, the Clippers had more depth, but the Lakers’ two superstars were so much better than theirs that it did not matter.
When the Lakers eventually raise that Larry O’Brien trophy, one man will be on the minds of not only the players but also the fans sitting at home in their living rooms watching.
The last time the Lakers were in the Finals, he was the one running down the court in the final seconds of the game, standing up on the announcer’s table with his arms out celebrating with the crowd, and raising the trophy.
Unfortunately, Bryant will not be here to relish in the team’s 17th championship after winning the last five of them. Instead, the Lakers have dedicated this playoff run to him. They end their huddles by saying ‘Mamba on three,’ they have incorporated a patch with his initials onto their jerseys and they will even wear the Black Mamba jerseys as they try to close the series out on Friday.
Ever since the Lakers resumed their season on Jan. 31 just five days after Bryant’s death, things have been different.
That night, although they lost, the Lakers became more than just teammates or friends, they became family.
They all grieved that night and it was in a way that nobody but the 15 players on the roster will ever truly be able to understand. James promised to bring the Lakers back to the Finals when he signed with them back in 2018, but in January, he made a vow to carry on the legacy of his brother.
A vow that is one win away from completion.
To say the Lakers need to win this game or this championship for Bryant would be putting too much pressure on them. They have already shown throughout the season he is forever in their hearts and on their minds.
When the Lakers win the championship, it will not be about James’ legacy, Davis’ greatness, or even the fact that they did it for Bryant. It will be a culmination of the last 10 years and every single hardship and ounce of adversity they faced in their hunt for another championship
They will have overcome it.
Think of every time a free agent passed up on the Lakers or every time they have gotten blown out or even all of the frustrating seasons with Jordan Hill and Wesley Johnson in the starting lineup.
The Lakers somehow got through all of that and are now just 48 minutes away from their 17th NBA championship.
There is no doubt in my mind that they win it and when they do, the Mamba will be right there celebrating alongside all of us because it was the Mamba Mentality that he instilled within the Lakers and its players that has guided them to this point.