Authors: Zini Zhu, Baoying Yuan, Alark Joshi
University of San Francisco
*This interactive story is best experienced with Google Chrome on a screen with a resolution of 2560 x 1440
The Los Angeles Lakers have the most glorious history among all the teams in the National Basketball Association. One only needs to look at all the retired jerseys hanging in the Staples Center: Elgin Baylor, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, James Worthy, Jerry West, Shaquille O’Neal, and Kobe Bryant. Additionally, they have won 16 Championships. With such a rich history, the goal for the Lakers is always the same - Win a Championship!
The Lakers’ trajectory was completely changed in 2013, when their superstar Kobe Bryant went down with a torn Achilles. They quickly fell from a championship contender to a lottery team.
After struggling for 7 years, the team finally started moving in the right direction. In 2018, they signed LeBron James, followed by Anthony Davis in 2019. The Lakers traded their young players to assemble a new team around the two superstars.
Most of the new players in the team were players with a proven track records, but with something to prove. There was still doubt and dispute. ESPN ranked Lakers only 4th in their list of possible contenders, with a significant majority of experts believing that LeBron would get 0 titles in the next 4 years with the Lakers.
The scrutiny on Lebron James was further intensified after his first year with Lakers when he missed the playoffs for the 1st time since 2005. In 2020, he was raring to go and to get his respect back.
Anthony Davis gave everything he could to the New Orleans Pelicans, but the team could not win a championship. The All-Star had made his decision to move and was now part of the New Team.
Vogel led the Indiana Pacers to the Eastern Conference Finals twice, but they were were defeated both times by Miami Heat led by James. Now with the former MVP on his team, Vogel got another chance to win a championship.
Rondo used to play for the Lakers' biggest rival: the Celtics. He was known for his exceptional passing ability and quick thinking on the court. He was ready to help the Lakers team win a ring.
Howard’s last experience with Lakers was messy. This time, to show the Lakers fans that he had matured, the big guy offered to sign a non-guaranteed contract with the team.
It was KCP’s 3rd year with Lakers, yet he still hadn’t won over the trust and respect of the fans. As more players joined the team, this shooting guard wanted to showcase his special talents.
In the trade for AD, Kuzma was the only young player that stayed on the Lakers roster. He wanted to validate the team's trust in him by putting up solid performances for his team.
Caruso was deeply loved by the Lakers fans because of his energy and toughness on court. He started as an undrafted rookie and finally got a role in the team rotation due to his tireless effort.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Lakers only played 71 games in this regular season. With a 52-19 record, Lakers ranked 1st in the Western Conference. The team ranked 4th in points allowed and 2nd in rebounds allowed. They ranked 2nd for defensive rebounds and set the most blocks per game. Their offensive ranking was not as good, though. Lakers’ 3-pt shooting didn’t get significantly better this year even with KCP and Danny Green. They ranked 21th for the field goal percentage for three points and 29th for free throw percentage. These liabilities could be a big issue in the playoffs.
LAL 120 : 101 CHA, 2019/10/27
After losing DeMarcus Cousins to an ACL injury before him ever suiting up for the purple and gold, the Lakers signed Howard with a one-year, non-guaranteed, ‘prove it’ deal that the big man himself asked for. Due to the last unhappy experience Howard had with the team, Lakers fans were still skeptical as to what kind of impact he would have for the team. Those prejudices were quickly squashed after only the third game of the season against the Charlotte Hornets, as the former All-Star played a perfect game, going 8/8 from the field, scoring 16 pts with 19 rebounds, in only 22 minutes of play.
LAL 120 : 91 MEM, 2019/10/29
Los Angeles Lakers big man Anthony Davis has something in common with a short list of all-time franchise greats. The Brow went off for a huge 40 points and 20 rebounds game against the Memphis Grizzlies, in just 30 minutes. In the game, Davis went 26-27 from the foul line, breaking the franchise record for free throws made in a single game, which was previously held by Dwight Howard.
LAL 120 : 91 DAL, 2019/11/01
It didn’t take long for the 2-times champion guard to prove himself. In only the fifth game of the season, the Lakers were in a close game against Luka Donic and the Dallas Mavericks, with the team down three with 6.4 seconds left on the clock. As James drove to the basket, he lasered a pass to a semi-open Danny Green in the corner, who calmly pump-faked a scrambling Seth Curry and nailed the game-tying 3-pointer to send the game into overtime.
LAL 142 : 125 MIN, 2019/12/08
Davis made his presence felt by going off for a season-high 50 points and a stat line of 50/7/6, with four blocks and one steal. The Brow was unstoppable from every spot on the floor and showed us the full range of his skills as a scorer. He led the Los Angeles Lakers to a huge victory against the Timberwolves 142-125 and elevated the team’s record to 21-3. This is the game where we were able to see the full potential of a LeBron James/Anthony Davis pairing as these two were fully in sync.
LAL 101 : 96 ATL, 2019/12/15
After defeating the Atlanta Hawks, the Lakers won the 17 of the last 18 games, with a 10-game and 7-game winning streak. The New Team was firing on all cylinders with the two superstars playing well together and the role players doing their job well.
LAL 91 : 108 PHI, 2020/01/25
On January 25th, by making a simple drive to the basket, LeBron James passed Kobe Bryant for the third on the all-time scoring list. This is a moment that will, unfortunately, be forever intertwined with the tragic passing of one of basketball’s most legendary players, but that still shouldn’t take away from the importance of this monumental moment in sports.
LAL 113 : 103 MIL, 2020/03/06
LAL 112 : 103 LAC, 2020/03/08
These two games were projected to be one of the toughest parts of
the Lakers’ schedule. Both the teams were pegged to be favorites to
win the championship.
In the game against the Milwaukee Bucks led by the reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Lakers were in control right from the beginning of the game, and a late-game spin-move into a thunderous jam by LeBron James was the resounding exclamation to mark the end of the game. LeBron ended up with an impressive 37/8/8 and AD contributed with 30 points and 9 rebounds.
After losses against the Clippers on opening night and Christmas day, the team was eager to prove their status as a true championship contender. LeBron James made a 3-point play with 40 seconds to go that ended up being a decisive play to win the game.
On Jan 26th 2020, Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna died in a
It was a great loss to the Lakers community, the NBA, and the whole world,
but the Mamba Mentality will live on for generations to come.
The regular season was interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. When the season resumed, doubts rose on whether the Lakers could play at the same high level during the playoffs, considering the team's high average age.
Avery Bradley, who was the main defensive player in the team, decided not to play. In addition, the whole series would be carried out in “the Bubble”.
Apart from the competitions, the team would also have to overcome other kinds of obstacles, such as being separated from their families for over three months.