Despite all the challenges they faced, the Los Angeles Lakers made history in October, becoming NBA Champions for the 17th time in their storied history.
After brief celebrations, Rob Pelinka got straight to work improving the roster for the new season -- and he did not disappoint, bringing in Dennis Schroder, Montrezl Harrell, and Marc Gasol to bolster LA's depth and make them even more dangerous than they were last campaign.
Still, many wonder if a nearly 36-year-old LeBron will be enough for the Purple and Gold to win the title again, especially considering the rising levels of competition in the West.
If it's any relief for Lakers fans, basketball legend Gilbert Arenas still has them as the prohibitive favorites going into this season. Here's a segment from his recent appearance on "Club Shay Shay" with Shannon Sharpe:
Shannon: "What's your early prediction of 2021?"
Arenas: "Uh, back to back."
Shannon: "What about the Nets? they got Kyrie, they got LeVert, they got KD, they got Dinwiddie, they got Jarrett Allen, they got Joe Harris, they got Tyler Johnson. They got a nice squad over there."
Arenas: “Listen, I watched the Nets for 2 weeks. They’re playing amazing, they’re working together amazing, but let’s not forget LeBron and that Cleveland squad, whatever that team was, that went last place after he left, they went dead last -- went up against KD, Curry, Klay, Draymond. Four juggernauts. There's only two now, and he got help. Unless they're gonna get Harden and Westbrook over there, I don't see it."
It is true that LeBron was pitted up against four stars during his last Finals appearance in Cleveland, but it's also true that he and his team got absolutely smoked in that series, losing in a clean 4-game sweep against the Warriors.
LeBron and AD were able to win it all in 2020, and they might do it again in 2021, but the path is only getting harder for James, not easier.
Turning 36 in late December, LeBron will have to keep fighting off Father Time as he and the Lakers face new threats in the West. Some, like Arenas, have faith, but others aren't so quick to call it.
We'll see soon enough who gets bragging rights when it's all said and done.