The 2020 NBA season has been a rollercoaster ride with people insisting on an ‘asterisk’ beside the championship. Whether the asterisk is in favour of the LA Lakers or against is left to the fan’s discretion. However, some prominent veterans in the NBA have given their opinion on how the asterisk should be perceived. While Shaquille O’Neal thinks it signifies the hardships of playing in the bubble, Miami Heat‘s Pat Riley believes it denotes the easy path the Lakers had in the Finals.
"[The Lakers] beat us fair and square. They were the best team. But there's always going to be that asterisk, that caveat."
— SLAM Newswire (@SLAMnewswire) October 24, 2020
LA Lakers emerged as the NBA Champions against severely shorthanded Miami Heat. Miami caught everyone by surprise with impeccable performance in the easter conference playoffs beating back to back MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo’s Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics. Jimmy Butler proved himself as a leader and pure team effort got them the ECF trophy. Rookie Tyler Herro’s confidence was unparalleled and Bam Adebayo solidified their defensive presence.
Although Lakers had the upper hand even before the unfortunate injuries suffered by the Heat, fans were optimistic about their chances. Miami at one point looked tough enough to give Lakers a run for the championship but Goran Dragic and Bam Adebayo went down in game 1 and the debate about the ‘asterisk’ solidified.
Pat Riley thinks a Game 7 of Miami Heat vs LA Lakers was a possibility
In an interview with the Miami Herald, Pat Riley reflected on Miami Heat’s six-game loss to the LA Lakers in the 2020 NBA Finals. Although he didn’t take away anything from the current NBA Champions, he opined that the outcome may have been different had Goran Dragic and Bam Adebayo been healthy.
“I would like to see what it would be like with everybody whole. We’ll get our chance again. The Lakers have the greatest player in the game today in LeBron [James] and Anthony Davis.
“They beat us fair and squarely. But there will be always be that asterisk; if we had Bam and Goran 100 percent — Goran was our leading scorer [entering the Finals] — it might have gone to a seventh game.”
Despite being shorthanded with no Finals experience, Miami managed to drag the series to 6 games, with Jimmy Butler single-handedly carrying the team. Goran Dragic was their best offensive weapon and an integral part of their playoff success until that point. His performance had a direct correlation to whether or not the Heat was going to win the game. Due to a planter tear, he was initially ruled out of the finals, however, he returned in Game 6 for a final effort which went in vain.
In addition to losing their leading scorer in Game 1 of NBA Finals, their most improved player Bam Adebayo suffered a shoulder injury after a hard collision with Dwight Howard. And if that wasn’t enough, Jimmy Butler had a sprained ankle halfway through the second quarter however he recovered soon to give his career-best performance in Game 3 to give Miami a chance.
While we can only speculate about “what could have been” the LA Lakers had an answer for everyone in Miami. Even if the series stretched to Game 7 LeBron James and Anthony Davis would have won the O’Brien trophy.