LA: City of Champions Once Again
For the first time since 1988 the Los Angeles Lakers and Dodgers are both world champions. Each team had a tremendous year leading up to their championship-clinching win while also overcoming many obstacles. Each team led their respective divisions with the Lakers having the second best record in the NBA and the best record in the Western Conference at 52–19. The Dodgers on the other hand held the best record in the MLB standing at 43–17. However their paths to the championships were far from easy, each team had to go through the countless COVID-19 protocols as well as facing teams that proved to be worthy contenders. We as a city together had to overcome the tragic passing of Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gigi. Following that the city and both teams adapted the motto “For Kobe,” and I know he’s looking down emphasizing that the job is done.
The teams’ first challenge of course was knowing whether or not they were even going to be able to compete for a championship. As we all know the NBA suspended the rest of their season on March 11 earlier this year and soon after other sports followed in their footsteps. The MLB however had not yet started but due to the looming concerns of COVID-19 their season was delayed. A few months later both would be able to start back up their season. On July 22 the first NBA scrimmages were played in the Orlando bubble and the MLB started the next day, July 23. From the get-go both teams had their own unique route to becoming champions. The Dodgers with their newly acquired superstar, Mookie Betts, started off the season winning 7 of their first 10 games and steamrolled through the rest of the season again leading to them having the best record in the league. The Lakers on the other hand started off pretty sluggish from the scrimmage games and the last 8 games of the season at 3–5. Although ending the season below .500, they picked up the pace once the playoffs started.
To start the playoffs the Lakers faced the Portland Trailblazers who had caught fire since the restart. The Trailblazers were led by their sensational guard Damien Lillard, and they had many people doubting if the Lakers would be able to defeat such a scorching-hot team. The Lakers nevertheless had different plans and quickly proved the doubters wrong by winning the series 4–1. The Dodgers in the first round had to face the Milwaukee Brewers who had the 2018 National League MVP, Christian Yelich. The Brewers may have had an MVP but the Dodgers had two former MVPs in Cody Bellinger (2019) and Mookie Betts (2018 American League) which proved to be too much for Milwaukee. Dodgers won the series 2–0 and headed onto their next opponent, the San Diego Padres.
Continuing with the Lakers playoff run, Lebron James along with Anthony Davis dominated the 2nd round against the Houston Rockets again winning 4–1. Their toughest task in the playoffs for the Lakers were the Denver Nuggets who were coming off of their stellar comeback against the Lakers less fortunate little brother, the Clippers. Unlike the Clippers, the Lakers handled their business in six games leading them to their first Finals appearance since 2010. The Dodgers closed out their playoff run by sweeping the Padres in three games. Just like the Lakers their toughest series would come in their league-finals when facing the Atlanta Braves for the NL pennant. In a rare occurrence in their playoff run, the Dodgers saw themselves down three games to one and on the verge of elimination. But, with their season on the line players such as Corey Seager and Mayfair’s very own Justin Turner provided major help to lead their team back to win the series 4–3. This was the Dodgers’ 3rd time in the last 4 years reaching the World Series.
In a once-in-a-lifetime coincidence both LA teams would face teams that both reside in Florida. The Lakers would face the young, gritty, underdogs from the east: the Miami Heat. The Dodgers would end up facing the best team coming out of the American League, the Tampa Bay Rays. In the first game of the Finals the Lakers dominated on both sides of the ball holding the Heat to only 48 points in the first half. Led by Anthony Davis’s 35 points and Lebron’s double-double, as well as a strong showing from the three-point line; the Lakers won game one, 116–98. Game two would sort of follow the same course as the Lakers beat Miami by 10 points. However Miami was hit with the injury bug, losing their all-star big man Bam Adebayo, and crafty point guard Goran Dragic. In game three the Lakers seemed to cool down as the Heat followed after their name and took the game by 11 points behind a monster triple-double from Jimmy Butler. The series would go back and forth with the Lakers winning game four and then the Heat winning game five. But, the Lakers proved to be too hot for the young Heat team and won game six as well as the title behind the commanding play of Lebron James who had another triple-double. This title ended up being the Lakers’ 17th title and Lebron’s 4th.
The Dodgers in the World Series went through a similar path with their opponent. The Rays proved to be fairly evenly–matched and were led by up-and-coming superstar Randy Arozarena, who would later set the record of most homers in postseason history. Behind him however was Cory Seager who had nine home-runs. Dodgers took game one 8–3 where Cody Bellinger homered, and it was just a dominating performance at bat for the Dodgers team. The Rays would bounce back and take game two. Blake Snell had a very good game pitching, giving up no hits and Brandon Lowe had two home-runs in the game that helped contribute to the win. Walker Buehler in game three would give a pitching performance many fans and analysts would marvel at with 10 strikeouts, only giving up three hits and one run. Due to that the Dodgers would end up winning 6–2. Game four would end quite chaotically as the Dodgers had the lead for most of a game with a strong performance from Julio Urías in four innings. However, Kenley Jansen came in and squandered the lead, and the Rays would win by a bizarre walk-off by Kevin Kiermaier. Although the loss was crushing the Dodgers bounced back and took game five, and they were just one win away from getting the Commissioner's trophy, which had eluded them for 32 long years. In game six it seemed to be fairly quiet with good pitching from both teams. Blake Snell for the Rays was on his way for having a big game with nine strikeouts in only four innings. Fortunately for the Dodgers the Rays manager made a questionable call to take Snell out the game in the fifth inning. That decision would prove costly because after Snell was taken out the Dodgers were ignited by a double from Mookie Betts that turned into a run. At the next at-bat Corey Seager was able to send Mookie home off a wild pitch giving the Dodgers a 2–1 lead. In the eighth inning Mookie Betts returned again to the plate with the chance to clinch a World Series title for the Dodgers, and without a doubt he came through with a homer to give the Dodgers a 3–1 lead with only one more inning to go. To close out the game Julio Urías was on the mound and struck out the last three batters for the Rays, guaranteeing the victory for the Dodgers. This title would be their 7th in team history and their first in 32 years.