The Boston crowd is stunned. Rajon Rondo is being lifted in the air by Lebron James. Both players winning once again on Boston's floor, but together this time. And both donning the Los Angeles Lakers jerseys of all things. They are joined in celebration by the same group of players who started the season with them as the trade deadline passed just hours before game time. They all look happy... for now.
So how did we get here?
When Lebron James made his announcement to join the Los Angeles Lakers, he was going to make sure they became the best show coming out of Hollywood. We knew this was going to be the case, but we still weren't prepared for everything that has happened throughout this season.
Starting the season 0-3 the questions began to arise very early. Does this team have the talent to make the playoffs? Can Lebron raise the level of play amongst the Lakers youth quickly? Will they ever win a game?
They got their first win against the lowly Phoenix Suns. A win is a win as they say, and they say many things. The Lakers didn't get above .500 until 13 games into the season. But once everyone began to learn their roles on the squad, they hit a bit of a hot streak.
They began to climb the playoff ladder, and found themselves looking at possibly having home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. They went 18-9 over a stretch that started on Halloween and ended on Christmas. And what would follow would be more tricks than treats, and a lot of coal on their stockings.
Lebron James sustained a "minor" groin injury on Christmas Day. But I always says that for a man, there is no such thing as a "minor" groin injury. His team went on to demolish the Golden State Warriors in front of 20,000 stunned Oakland fans. And with the entire world watching, they brought the drama to everyone's television screens.
But without Lebron, the team would simply be full of guys probably feeling like they were the stars of The Truman Show. Every player was evaluated relentlessly. Each night, the question was who was going to be the hero or the scape-goat. Who was going to be the player that separated himself from the rest of the pack? Who was going to prove to Lebron that they were deserving of remaining off the team until past the trade deadline. And then... it happened.
Rich Paul, (Lebron's best friend slash agent) spoke on behalf of his client Anthony Davis and requested for trade from the New Orleans Pelicans. The Los Angeles Lakers were the obvious desperate trade suitor. With nobody on the team proving anything other than the fact that they are good enough to play on a mediocre team with a 7-10 record, we assumed that nobody on the team was safe...
*Deep narrators voice* Because they weren't.
It is easy to imagine what was going on through these guys' minds every single day. Knowing that their career as a Los Angeles Laker could end at any given moment. Knowing that their play on the court was being evaluated so meticulously not only by their own ownership, but other team's ownership, and everyone in the basketball world.
The game before the trade deadline may have been the most telling of them all. Lebron's teammates kept their distance from the thrown, and came together as a group to form a mutiny so strong that it catapulted them to Lebron's worse loss of his career.
A 42-point blowout by the Indiana Pacers seemed to be the final stamp on this group. With less than 24 hours to go on the trade deadline, each player probably had their minds prepared for any possible scenario. But what would happen next would be the biggest plot twist of them all.
The trade deadline came and went, and not a single Lakers starter was traded. In fact, besides a couple of small moves, the Lakers remained relatively quiet at the trade deadline. So naturally, with all of these questions finally being answered, the next question would be... Will it work?
They had a date with the Celtics in Boston, and there could have been a million different ways this could have ended. The Lakers could have gotten blown out in a second consecutive game, and everyone would've continued to question the management. They could have found a way to lose a tough game, and someone other than Lebron would have been the one to blame. But the way it actually finished seemed like planned chaos.
The final two minutes of the game were intense, and both teams had a counter for every jab. With no timeouts remaining and the Lakers down by one, everything that had gone on over the first half of the season was forgotten.
Rajon Rondo caught a loose ball out of the air and elevated in slow motion, much like he used to for all of those years in Boston. He created a moment so ironic, that it defined the entire Lakers season. The ball went through the net as the time expired, and the entire Lakers teams came together as one to celebrate the victory. For a moment, they looked like a team with the same goal in mind; Win.
And while their season has been like a bumpy old-school wooden roller coaster, we can now see that best television is yet to come. The Los Angeles Lakers are captivating, and if you blink you might miss something.
Just a man trying to make the most of his time on this planet.