The Los Angeles Lakers won the NBA title this year under the leadership of LeBron James and the dominance of Anthony Davis. The Lakers had the best duo in the NBA and it showed as they beat down every team in the playoffs en route to the Finals. But make no mistake about it, the Lakers did a fantastic job of building a group of excellent role players around LeBron James and Anthony Davis. They went after Kawhi Leonard hard, only to be let down as he chose to sign with the Los Angeles Clippers this past offseason.
This might have been a blessing in disguise because the Lakers managed to create excellent depth with role players that won NBA titles before and also have plenty of postseason experience. Without a host of key role players, it would be hard to imagine that the Lakers would have won it all this year. In fact, 5 players have beat LeBron James in the playoffs before and were ultimately a part of the title-winning squad this year. This means that LeBron James played with a group of players who beat him before, and they helped him win his 4th ring.
Here are all of LeBron’s teammates that beat him in the past, before joining him to win an NBA title in 2020.
Quinn Cook (2018 Golden State Warriors)
2019/2020 Season Statistics: 5.1 PPG, 1.2 RPG, 1.1 APG, 36.5% 3-pt FG
Quinn Cook barely played during the season, coming in at spurts whenever his 3-point shooting was needed. The reason Cook was signed during the offseason was that he won a title with the Golden State Warriors, and knows LeBron James very well having played against him in 2016. Cook’s veteran experience in the playoffs is very useful in building locker room camaraderie because he will have a serious approach to winning an NBA title.
Quinn Cook may have been a “benchwarmer” for the Lakers during the postseason, but make no mistake he was important. LeBron could look towards his bench and see guys like Cook who have been through the grime of playoffs which was invaluable for the Lakers’ entire organization.
JaVale McGee (2017, 2018 Golden State Warriors)
2019/2020 Season Statistics: 6.6 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 0.5 APG, 1.4 BPG
JaVale McGee may have had a better season last year, but his size and presence inside made the Lakers a very intimidating force since the first day of the regular season. Seeing JaVale McGee and Anthony Davis in the paint was enough to make opponents worry about attacking the paint and running into large men who can block shots and protect the rim. While the NBA has moved away from traditional centers, McGee is still valuable.
McGee’s presence on the squad was especially important in building a championship culture. JaVale won the title with the Golden State Warriors in 2017 and 2018, playing a massive role as the rim protector and defensive presence while the superstars did their thing. McGee’s championship experience was valuable for the Lakers, and James will be happy he had McGee blocking shots for him rather than against his team.
Danny Green (2014 San Antonio Spurs)
2019/2020 Season Statistics: 8.0 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 1.3 APG, 36.7% 3-pt FG
Danny Green was probably the most criticized player on the Lakers besides Kyle Kuzma. Green had plenty of inconsistent streaks when he shot the ball, and he wasn’t trusted to consistently make open shots when that was his job in the first place. Nonetheless, he shot 36.7% from 3 during the regular season which is decent in today’s NBA. But where Danny Green was especially effective was on defense, as one of the best on-ball defenders at the shooting guard position.
Green played a pivotal role in the San Antonio Spurs run against the Miami Heat in 2014, using defense and shooting to help his team consistently. Green also won an NBA title with the Toronto Raptors last season, which is not a coincidence. Green is one of the best championship-caliber role players because of his defense, and even when he missed shots, he could be a stopper for LeBron and Co.
Dwight Howard (2009 Orlando Magic)
2019/2020 Season Statistics: 7.5 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 0.7 APG, 1.1 BPG
The rise and fall of Dwight Howard were well documented. Nobody expected Howard to be back in the NBA before this season because he seems to be dealing with off-court issues and is a very old-school center without any real post moves. But the Lakers found a way to use Dwight’s gifts and win an NBA title. Dwight is one of the most physically gifted players ever, and his presence inside the paint was critical for the Lakers. Howard is a powerful man and a great defender with natural instincts.
Howard was once the superstar for the Orlando Magic that defeated LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2009 playoffs, which was one of the final straws that made LeBron leave Cleveland. Even if Howard wasn’t close to the superstar he used to be, he was a beast on defense and his size made opposing teams fear attacking the rim.
Rajon Rondo (2008, 2010 Boston Celtics)
2019/2020 Season Statistics: 7.1 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 5.0 APG, 32.8% 3-pt FG
The best role player that beat LeBron James on 2 separate occasions and joined him was Rajon Rondo. Rondo was decent during the regular season, with averages of 7.1 PPG and 5.0 APG, and could be trusted to handle the ball when LeBron was resting. But Rondo’s true value came during the playoffs, where Playoff Rondo was born. Playoff Rondo was unbelievable for the Lakers, and he was the third star that they needed behind LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
Rondo was the starting point guard and All-Star talent for the Boston Celtics Superteam alongside Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Kevin Garnett. Rondo helped Boston beat LeBron on 2 occasions, in 2008 and 2010, the latter effectively ending LeBron’s run in Cleveland. Rondo said if he played alongside LeBron James, they would be unbeatable and it definitely looked that way this year. Rondo’s basketball I.Q. was invaluable for the Lakers and he was the best teammate for LeBron James outside of Anthony Davis.