The Other Guys: Examining the Legacies of LeBron’s Title-Winning Supporting Cast

Credit:

Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images. Pictured: LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

There will be time to talk about LeBron James, and there will be no shortage of ink for the generation’s greatest player after he secured his fourth NBA championship and Finals MVP on Sunday night.

However, there are more players on the Lakers than just Anthony Davis under the shadow of James’ immense shoulders, and they all played a role in what was ultimately a dominant Lakers run throughout the 2020 NBA playoffs.

Winning a title fundamentally reshapes your identity, no matter your role. It helped Gary Payton with the Heat in 2006. It helped Ray Allen in 2013, as he became a two-time champion in Miami. It shifts how you’re remembered.

Here’s a look at what this title means for the other Lakers:

Anthony Davis

Davis is certified now. He hired Rich Paul as his agent and held the Pelicans hostage to make sure he ended up somewhere he could win a title. What happy circumstance that he wound up with Paul’s other star client?

Davis will now be considered the best big man in the league. You can make the argument for Nikola Jokic, but Davis will come first for his defense and, well, being a Laker in most circles.

This matters. Winning a title with another franchise would not be rewarded as it is with the Lakers. It should, but it won’t. That’s just how it goes in the NBA.

Davis going through any stretch of more than one season as the game’s best big man certifies him as well. So you have the stats — in 21 playoff games this year, Davis averaged 27.7 points, 9.7 rebounds and 1.7 blocks while shooting 57.1% from the field — the title of best big man and an NBA championship.

Is Davis already locked as a Hall of Famer? He’s got more to do, obviously, that will lock him in further, but remember that he also has two gold medals with Team USA.

To lock all of those achievements in at 27 years old is pretty exceptional. When Davis was drafted No. 1 overall out of Kentucky, great things were expected of the impossibly long young man with guard skills. He’s made good on that promise and only left one franchise in the wreckage to get it done.

Rajon Rondo

Two titles for Playoff Rondo, one of which came as a guy who had previously been written off as irrelevant, only to bounce back and play major minutes in these playoffs and Finals.

Rondo now has more rings than his Celtics cohorts Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.

Rondo was once thought to be one of the great point guards of his time. His performance and career from 2012-19 called all that into doubt, but this championship run reminds the world how good he can be. Long ago, Rondo learned to save himself for the absolute most important games. He did that this year and was the X-factor the Lakers needed.

Rondo has now won a title with the Lakers and Celtics, a bizarre and sports-bar trivia anecdote, but also an important one. Rondo’s status as an all-time savvy winner is validated.

Dwight Howard

Everyone who paid attention knew Howard was a lock for the Hall of Fame anyway because of his stats with Orlando, the 2009 Finals run, the Defensive Player of the Year awards and his two gold medals.

Howard now has a title to go along with it. It doesn’t matter that he was a role player or that he was benched in Game 6. All that matters is the resume. Dwight Howard is going to the Hall of Fame.

Alex Caruso

The GOAT, obviously.

JaVale McGee

McGee won’t be in the Hall, but he now has three championship rings, which is three more than most players ever see. McGee went from being an absolute joke with Denver, a punchline for bad extensions given, to being a competent role player that great teams have wanted around.

It doesn’t matter how many times he wound up on Shaqtin’ A Fool, because he’s a winner.

Danny Green

Green doesn’t have a Hall of Fame resume, but he’s going to be mentioned alongside the likes of Robert Horry and other great role players on championship teams. Green was phenomenal in San Antonio, crucial in Toronto and perfectly good for the Lakers. The Lakers were without Avery Bradley for the bubble run and needed someone to hold down the two-guard spot.

Despite missing the big shot in Game 5, Green has hit more than enough big shots in his career to be remembered fondly, and his integration with this Lakers team was crucial for providing spacing and defense.

Frank Vogel

Vogel will not get the credit he deserves for this title. It will be talked about as if all he had to do was not get in the way of his stars. But the Lakers won this championship because of their defense.

Vogel was the one that built the team’s identity that defined the way the Lakers played. That was as important as any factor for Los Angeles’ success outside of Davis and James.

Consider that Vogel now has an NBA title to go with his Eastern Conference Finals appearance with the Pacers. The Lakers are likely just getting started, and Vogel has also likely punched his ticket to the Hall.

If that sounds crazy? Consider that Vogel has now won as many titles as Rick Carlisle. That’s how important this is for him.

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