Moments after the Los Angeles Lakers won the NBA Championship last October in the NBA bubble at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports complex in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., One of the cameramen who had been authorized to record the celebration happened on LeBron James and Anthony Davis walking together down a hallway exiting the arena.
They were both drenched in sweat and champagne. And for the first time in the longest season in NBA history, they had found a moment to rest. The exhaustion of everything they had been through in the past 11 months was as overwhelming as their joy at winning the title.
“What don’t you achieve by winning a championship? James told Davis. “It’s the first time this year that you haven’t been skating after the game!”
James had just won his fourth ring, and that mixture of exhaustion and joy right after was something he had known before. But this season, the one the Lakers had just gone through, the one interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic and restarted four months later amid the lingering threat of the virus and against the backdrop of a nationwide emotional calculation on race relations, had been different in any season than anyone had known. And the Lakers needed a break.
But there wouldn’t be a championship parade. It wasn’t even safe for the fans to greet them at the airport when they returned. The best they could do was an intimate celebration with family and friends at a restaurant inside the bubble, then a private party in Las Vegas. Everyone was so exhausted – a long rest during the winter was fine.
It was the expectation, anyway.