NBA Finals: Lakers, Heat prepare for battle as odyssey reaches climax

LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers begin the final challenge in their bid to return to the summit of basketball on Wednesday when they take on the Miami Heat team in game one of the NBA Finals.

A full 11 months after the 2019-2020 NBA season first tipped off, a marathon campaign plunged into crisis by Covid-19 and tumultuous social unrest finally reaches its climax in Orlando.

The fact that the NBA season has managed to reach the home stretch is itself a triumph of sorts, a testament to assiduous planning by league officials to create a secure “bubble” at Disney World in Florida.

Since July, teams have been housed at the sprawling entertainment park in Orlando, largely sequestered from the outside world and the raging coronavirus crisis which has claimed more than 204,000 American lives.

Even then, the season has not been immune from external forces. A month ago, the season threatened to unravel as a tide of anger against racial injustice prompted teams led by the Milwaukee Bucks to boycott games.

The Lakers, who will be chasing a 17th NBA championship against Miami in the finals, were one of two teams who reportedly voted to abandon the season altogether on August 26 following the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha.

That walkout threat was only headed off by the intervention of former President Barack Obama, who reportedly counseled James and other players against a season-ending boycott. (AFP)

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