No disrespect to LeBron James, who valiantly took the mantle from Kobe Bryant and carried this team through the most difficult and unprecedented season in the history of the NBA, but Anthony Davis is the Lakers’ future.
When AD’s game-winning buzzer-beating dagger-three splashed through the net, it was like the world stopped, the team’s legacy clock reset, and the era where Anthony Davis takes over as Lakers top superstar officially began. Out of respect, the Lakers will still be known as LeBron’s team like they had been known as Shaq’s team but the cognoscenti will know the moment had come when the team’s future depended on AD like it once did with Kobe.
Great as LeBron James is, the Lakers will only go as far as Anthony Davis can carry them. We saw hints of this throughout this long disjointed season and its harsh reality during the second half of last night’s Nuggets’ game. There will be games LeBron can still dominate just like there were with Shaq but the time has finally arrived when LeBron and the Lakers need to look to AD to close games like Shaq and the Lakers needed to look to Kobe.
While LeBron James is still the King and MVP of the regular season, it will likely be the ascent of Anthony Davis to Finals MVP and best player in the league that wins the Los Angeles Lakers their 17th NBA championship. That’s what this season, the Klutch Sports driven trade for AD, LeBron’s taking the baton from Kobe, and James’ respect and deference to empower Davis has all been about: winning championships and building a legacy.
This has been an unbelievably tough season for the Lakers with obstacles like the tragic death of Kobe Bryant, the five-month coronavirus layoff, and losing home court advantage to the bubble repeatedly blocking their way. But the basketball gods may finally be smiling on the Lakers as the bubble playoffs have eliminated the Bucks and Clippers, their main competitors, and cleared the road for Los Angeles to win its 17th NBA championship.
No disrespect to the Nuggets, Heat,or Celtics but this season is the Lakers’ best opportunity to win a championship with the Bucks and Clippers gone and the healthy Warriors and the new look Nets back in the mix next year. Who knows how long LeBron James can continue to cheat Father Time, what blockbuster moves franchises may make to create new superteams, or how long the coronavirus pandemic will devalue home court advantage.
When LeBron James joined the Lakers in free agency two summers ago, critics said he did it for family reasons. In retrospect, the decision was a calculated move to enhance his legacy and chances to become the GOAT. LeBron could play four more seasons after this, retire at 40-years old after his sixth season and maybe fourth championship as a Laker, and trump Michael Jordan as the GOAT with seven NBA championship rings.
No NBA superstar has ever had the career savvy and vision of LeBron to understand how combining his star power, the Lakers’ legacy, and AD’s talents could give him his best chance to surpass MJ to become the GOAT. That’s why he has deferred to AD and is willing to give him the opportunity to become Finals MVP and best player on the planet and even take a pay cut on his last contract with the Lakers. It’s all part of his master plan to win.
That clutch step-back dagger three at the buzzer by Anthony Davis not only positioned the team six games away from their 17th championship but also gave the rest of the NBA formal notice the Anthony Davis era had begun.