Editor’s note: This is the Wednesday, July 21 edition of the Purple & Bold Lakers newsletter from reporter Kyle Goon. To receive the newsletter in your inbox, sign up here.
The images of the Lakers’ 2020 title still feel so clear, and some of them were familiar as the Milwaukee Bucks wrapped up their first NBA title since 1971: There will always be championship shirts and hats, and goggles for champagne celebrations, and the hoisting of trophies into the air.
But the context of winning in one’s own home felt so different, and in a way, reviving. While it might not be on its face safe for some 65,000 Milwaukee residents to be celebrating in the streets en masse, it was understandable after a year-and-a-half of caution, of fear, of confined isolation. It’s still clear, too, in my head, the smoke drifting from LeBron James’ cigar last October as he savored his fourth career championship with his third franchise. Giannis Antetokounmpo, 10 years his junior playing for the team that drafted him, spit after taking an ill-advised inhale – the taste ending the season on top is still new to him.
In one sense, the NBA is back – back in home markets, back in front of crowds, rising back to its former popularity with less existential worries about the pandemic, presidential elections and other challenges that made basketball seem small by comparison. In other ways, Milwaukee triumphing over the Phoenix Suns felt like an inflection point that could change the power balance in the league.
A couple of thoughts from the postseason that was, and how they apply to the Lakers:
1. Is winning where you were drafted more desirable now?
Just a decade ago, there were few franchises in more dire straits than the Bucks, who were playing in an outdated Bradley Center and practicing in a building owned by the Catholic Church. They did make the playoffs often enough, but between 1989 and 2018, they only advanced past the first round one time, constantly treading water in mediocrity.
Things started changing when they hit the lottery with Antetokounmpo, who surpassed all reasonable expectations from that 2013 Draft (15th overall) as a spindly teenager, and also with dynamic ownership from the Lasry family, which infused money and bold moves into the franchise. It’s the biggest sports success in Milwaukee since … ever? (Yes, the city has won an NBA title before, but back before the NBA was the globally relevant league it is today.)
The franchise validated the five-year, $228 million supermax contract that Antetokounmpo signed last summer, an offseason of hand-wringing and worrying that the Greek Freak might not be satisfied with his situation in Wisconsin. But Antetokounmpo wound up taking direct shots at other stars who have left for bigger markets before him on Tuesday night.
“That’s my stubborn side,” he said. “It’s easy to go somewhere and go win a championship with somebody else. It’s easy. … I could go to a super team and just do my …read more
Source:: Los Angeles Daily News