A Los Angeles Lakers sequel that failed to live up to the original

A few moments after the Los Angeles Lakers won the NBA championship last October inside the NBA bubble at Disney's ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, one of the cameramen who'd been allowed in to record the celebration happened upon LeBron James and Anthony Davis walking together in a hallway exiting the arena.

They were both drenched in sweat and champagne. And for the first time in the longest season in NBA history, they'd found a moment to rest. The exhaustion of everything they'd been through in the past 11 months was as overwhelming as their joy in winning the title.

"What you don't realize about winning a championship?" James said to Davis. "It's the first time all year where you don't ice after the game!"

James had just won his fourth ring, and this mix of exhaustion and joy right afterward was something he'd experienced before. But that season, the one the Lakers had just lived through, the one halted by the COVID-19 pandemic and restarted four months later amid the lingering threat of the virus and against the backdrop of an emotional nationwide reckoning on race relations, had been unlike any season anyone had experienced. And the Lakers needed a break.

But there would be no championship parade. It wasn't even safe for fans to greet them at the airport upon their return. The best they could do was an intimate celebration with family and friends at a restaurant inside the bubble, then a private party in Las Vegas. Everyone was so exhausted -- a long rest over the winter was just fine.

That was the expectation, anyway.