LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — LeBron James has made it clear that his goal is to surpass Michael Jordan as the greatest player in the history of basketball.
On Sunday night, James took a step closer to doing so.
James was named the 2020 Finals MVP for leading the Los Angeles Lakers to their first championship in a decade and winning the fourth title of his career, with a 106-93 victory over the Miami Heat in Game 6 of the NBA Finals on Sunday night.
James, who previously won Finals MVP in 2012 and 2013 with the Heat and in 2016 with the Cleveland Cavaliers, is the first player in NBA history to win the award with three different franchises.
“I put myself, my body and my mind in position to be available to my teammates,” James said. “I’ve never missed a playoff game in my career and the best thing you can do for your teammates is be available. And for me to be available to my teammates and put in the work, I just hope I make my guys proud and that’s all that matters to me. I make my guys proud, make the fanbase proud, my family back home, I can’t wait to get back home to them. Akron, Ohio we did it again. and that’s what it’s all about.”
Winning his fourth Finals MVP award moves him out of a tie with Magic Johnson, Tim Duncan and Shaquille O’Neal and into second all time — trailing only Jordan, who won the award six times.
James capped his 17th season in the league with a virtuoso run through the postseason, shooting well over 50% from the field while also running the Lakers’ offense virtually every possession he was on the court. He also displayed a commitment on the other end of the court, playing a key role in a suffocating defensive unit.
Most importantly, James outdueled Jimmy Butler in what was an all-time classic matchup throughout these Finals, including James going off for 40 points, 13 rebounds and 7 assists in Game 5, and 28 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists in Game 6.
James delivering a 17th NBA championship to the Lakers, who last won a title in 2010, came after a disappointing first season in Los Angeles.
Following their 2018 Christmas Day win over the Golden State Warriors, the Lakers were 20-14 and in fourth place in the West. But James suffered the first major injury of his career in that game, a strained groin that forced him to miss more than a month. By the time he returned, the Lakers had fallen to 10th in the West. James ended up failing to qualify for the postseason for the first time since 2005.
Last summer, general manager Rob Pelinka swung a massive trade for Anthony Davis, an excellent partner for James who helped the franchise quickly turn around.
“I said it in the presser before we have no ego,” James said. “We want the best from each other every day both on and off the floor. And I know what it means to have seven years where you feel like you can’t get over the hump. I had seven years my first stint in Cleveland I felt like I couldn’t get over the hump, I felt like I needed some help, I felt like I needed someone to push me. And that’s when I was able to go to Miami and get pushed by D-Wade and Bosh and that franchise. So to be able to get him and we push him and let him know how great he is by just making him see better basketball and be a part of something that’s special, that’s what it’s all about. So to be able to put him where he is today, that means so much to me and the fact that he trusts me means even more.”
The Lakers quickly had on-court success in large part because of James, who averaged a league-leading and career-high 10.2 assists in the regular season, then once again proved to be indomitable in the crucible of the playoffs.
After Portland won Game 1 of the first round, James averaged 34.7 points, 9.3 rebounds and 9.3 assists over the final three games of that series. He and the rest of the Lakers overwhelmed Houston in the Western Conference semifinals. His defense on Nuggets guard Jamal Murray helped put the Lakers in the NBA Finals.
And then his drive to continue willing the Lakers forward allowed them to survive a stiff test from a resolute Heat team.
James also made sure that the Lakers stayed unified and pushed toward their shared goal throughout their run in the bubble.
“Means a lot. It means a lot to rep this franchise,” James said. “[Owner Jeannie Buss], I told Jeannie when I came here that I was going to put this franchise back in a position where it belongs. Her late, great father did it for so many years and she just took it on after that and for me to be a part of such a historical franchise is an unbelievable feeling, not only for myself but for my teammates, for the organization, for the coaches, for the trainers, everybody that’s here.”
James’s fourth championship gives him more rings than any other active player, and moves him to within one title of a group of 13 players who have won five, including Johnson, Duncan and the late Kobe Bryant. With Davis all but certain to remain in Los Angeles for the foreseeable future, James should have an opportunity to add more.
“We just want our respect. Rob wants his respect. Coach Vogel wants his respect,” James said of GM Rob Pelinka and coach Frank Vogel. “The organization wants their respect. Laker Nation want their respect. And I want my damn respect, too.”
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