The Lakers are the champs and you better give them their damn respect. All of them.

Jim Rome
October 12, 2020 - 9:19 am
LeBron James

USA Today


It’s an NFL Monday, but being based in Southern California, there is no way I was starting today’s show without asking – Laker fans, how Y’ALL LIVING this morning? After stumbling through the desert, for ten long years, searching for another title, now that you have one, how’s that feel? How’s number 17?!

After nearly closing it out in Game 5 on Friday night, the Lakers did the damn thing last night. And you knew they would from the moment the starting lineup was announced. Because that starting lineup included: a legend. A unicorn. One of one. It included one, Alex Caruso. Hell yes it did. To quote the old man behind the glass. Finally! To quote the old man behind the glass, game on!

If you want to finish.  It you want to go home. If you want to close, you put the ultimate finisher and closer in from the jump. And that’s exactly what Frank Vogel did with Caruso. Finally! Game On!  I have nothing but respect for the Heat, and the culture but even they had to know that game and series were over the second they saw Caruso walk onto the floor to the start the game. I bet one of the saw that and probably dropped a JC bomb!

Game 5 was unbelievable: for both teams. But the Lakers were not about to run that back.  They were not going to let the Heat stick around another and allow them to get even stronger and more confident: no way in hell the Lakers were going to mess with a 7th game. Not with these games. And not with the potential for Jimmy Butler to put them on his back and will them to some miracle. The Lakers were not going to let that happen. The Carushow was not going to allow that. Neither was LeBron, who I’ll get to in a moment. Or Anthony Davis, who was tremendous, and someone else I’ll get to. It wasn’t just them, it was all of them. Everyone. Especially Playoff Rondo who went next level as Finals Rondo was in the building last night. Especially in the first half when he was everywhere and dominating everything

Finals Rondo was on a beeping mission last night. The guy was 6 of 6 from the field for 13 points in the first half alone. And was attacking rack at will.

And Caruso started doing Caruso things; in other words performing acts of magic, because this dude is a freaking wizard: doing things that are inexplicable: things that you can’t believe he can do even though you just saw him do them: things like wrecking Bam Adebayo on box outs and then sprinting the floor and finishing

They were turning that game into a track meet and a layup line. And then completing locking the Heat up on the other end. And by then it was clear: the Heat had nothing left.  They left everything they had on the floor in game 5: they had emptied the tank. Jimmy Butler was amazing in that game. Everyone in Heat gear was.

But if you want to win a title, and if you want to beat this Lakers team, you have to do that every single night. And Miami just did not have anything left last night. They were slow to react to everything. 50-50 balls were 90-10 balls for the Lakers.

So, it wasn’t about the Lakers taking the fight to them and Miami not responding, Miami just didn’t have anything left. They were done. There was nothing in the tank. They didn’t have their legs anymore.

Butler had 35 points on Friday night and 12 last night. That’s part of the difference between Miami and LA. And part of the difference between LeBron and everyone else. He shows up every single night. Every. Single. Night.

That game was over in the first half. They had a 30 point lead in the second quarter. That is unreal. The Lakers got a 17th ring, LeBron got a fourth, Anthony Davis and Alex Caruso got their first, and JR Smith got to take his shirt off. That sums up the night.

But last night was about much more than that. LeBron summed it up during the trophy presentation.

So let’s talk about his damn respect. Let’s go back to when LeBron came to the Lakers. They hadn’t been to the playoffs in years. They were coming off a 35-win season. And all the talk was that LeBron was coming to LA to start his retirement. That LeBron coming to the Lakers wasn’t about winning another title, it was about setting up his production company for when he stepped away from basketball. That he didn’t need another ring; that his legacy was already intact and he delivered a world championship to the city of Cleveland. And went through Golden State to do so. And there was even more: not only did allegedly not need or want the additional ring, but there was the rap that no one who truly mattered wanted to need to play with him. The rap that that he wasn’t a great teammate. That his time had passed. That guys would rather team up with someone else. And then of course, there was a pocket of Laker fans who were pissed at him because he wasn’t Kobe.

People were clowning him and looking forward to the aging King showing up in Laker gear like LA Ram Joe Namath.

And then, in his first year with the team, things were going well, until he got injured. He suffered the worst injury of his NBA career.

And then it got bad. Really bad. LA fell apart and missed the playoffs, again. Magic quit so that he could start tweeting. Luke Walton moved on. The coaching search went on longer than expected.

And by the way, speaking of respect, will you give Frank Vogel is his respect now? He came into an incredibly challenging spot, with a ton of new faces, and immediately, just about everyone started the clock on him too. Like, all those guys are hired to be fired, but seemingly no one more so than Vogel: or so the argument went: there were pools on how long it would take for Jason Kidd, who was on staff to get that gig? 3 months? 30 days?  30 hours? 30 minutes? 30 seconds. Except for one thing: Vogel is a helluva coach. And did a helluva job in quickly getting all these new faces on the same page: an incredible job of getting them to buy in; especially defensively; and did a helluva job in leading and helping to navigate through a gut-wrenching, rollercoaster of a season.

Hey…Remember when the Clippers acquired Kawhi Leonard and Paul George? Remember when little brother supposedly got over on big brother and how that showed that LeBron was washed? Where are Kawhi and PG? Where have they been for the last month? And more importantly, where the hell were they when it mattered most: where were they when their team and organization need one or bust to take over on the big stage. There were nowhere to be found. But LeBron is where he has been for most of career, leading from the front. Leading from the front, putting in the time and running on rocket fuel: “Personally, thinking I have something to prove fuels me. It fueled me over this last year and a half since the injury. It fueled me because no matter what I’ve done in my career to this point, there’s still little rumblings of doubt or comparing me to the history of the game and ‘Has he done this? Has he done that?'”

So, yes, you better give LeBron his respect. He just put on an absolutely ridiculous regular season, followed by an even more absurd postseason. And that rap about elite players not wanting to play with him, did you see the dynamic with Anthony Davis? That was something else.

And here’s my other piece of advice: enjoy him. Admire greatness. I know he seems like he’s ageless, but he won’t be here forever. I’m not getting into a GOAT argument right now. That is legitimately the most tired, played argument of all-time. Just enjoy his greatness. And appreciate the fact that you get to see it on a nightly basis.

You know how great Jimmy Butler has been in these playoffs? LeBron is on a totally different level from Butler and it shows. As Halsey tweeted last night: it’s insane to be alive witnessing LeBron James in real time. Hate to say it but glad I was born.

That’s the truth. And here’s another truth: there is no asterisk on this. Not even close. Do not even mention that. That is another piece of whack sports yelling, sports debate show trash. Take that garbage somewhere else.

Not only was this not an easy ring to win, it might have been the hardest. The massive hiatus in the season, going to the bubble, living in the bubble for three months, away from home, away from family, away from friends. Ask the Milwaukee Bucks, the best team in basketball in the regular season, how easy it was to win a ring this year.

The physical challenge of ramping back up again – ask the Clippers how that went in terms of staying in shape, because it sure looked like they had a bunch of guys gassing out in the second round. The mental and psychological challenge of being trapped in the same location, unable to leave, for a quarter of a year. LeBron and the Lakers handled that, and more. And they are the champs and you better give them their damn respect.  All of them.