A tale of two triumphs amid a challenging year for LA

(Anna Shaposhnik | Daily Trojan)

After a season including the unexpected death of Lakers legend Kobe Bryant alongside his daughter Gianna and seven others in January, coupled with the uncertainty of life during the pandemic, this championship meant more. Despite being in a bubble atmosphere rather than the traditional setting of Staples Center, the victory energized fans across the city, giving a glimpse of hope in a tumultuous year. 

Celebrations erupted as large crowds gathered in downtown Los Angeles as LeBron James and Anthony Davis took the microphone during the post-game celebration in Orlando to speak on the significance of the win. The triumph was special not just for James, who picked up his fourth championship and finals MVP award, but for co-star Davis, a first-time champion. 

After losing their hero in Bryant, fans in L.A. have been in search of a victory this year. Fireworks and cars screeching downtown were loud and clear when the clock struck double-zeros to make it official that the Lakers were once again champions. Almost a decade after their last title win, fans flocked to Staples Center as a sea of gold and purple jerseys filled every crevice of downtown L.A. Those fans intentionally ignored the warning of officials instructing fans to celebrate inside at home and adhere to social distance guidelines.  

The impact of the championship was felt by students right here at USC as well.

“Los Angeles is a city that needed a win,” said Reagan Griffin Jr., a sophomore majoring in journalism.  “And when I say Los Angeles, I don’t mean Hollywood or Beverly Hills. I’m talking about Crenshaw. Inglewood. Compton. The heart and soul of L.A. — they needed this.” 

L.A. has been an epicenter of a pandemic placing mental, physical and financial uncertainty onto the world. Now, people are looking to climb their way out of it, and Griffin, an L.A. native, said the Lakers provided encouragement. 

“This is a group of people who’ve been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Griffin said. “A group of people who are forced to reckon with the social injustices of this country during every waking moment. A group of people who have lost heroes, from Nipsey Hussle to Kobe Bryant. They needed this. And the Lakers got it done.” 

Other students were present in their Zoom classes the following Monday in head-to-toe Lakers gear. Skyler Trepel, a graduate student studying specialized journalism, was one of those students. He was front and center in all his classes with his white “24” jersey and Lakers hat. Trepel spoke about how the feeling still has not worn off. 

“I’ve been a die-hard Laker fan since 1998 when I was 5 years old as Michael Jordan and a young Kobe Bryant went at it in the All-Star game on my fifth birthday,” Trepel said. “Kobe and the Lakers have been with me through every time in my life. They were there for the good, the bad, the ups and the downs. I can remember where I was and what I was going through in my life for every significant moment in Laker and Kobe Bryant history.” 

Trepel is from Winnipeg, Canada and won’t be in L.A. until coronavirus restrictions loosen up. But he affirmed that didn’t change the magnitude of the Lakers’ championship for him as he feels more connected to the city than ever before.

“Being from Canada, the Lakers became a huge part of my identity and what made me stand out in a country that mostly identifies with hockey,” Trepel said. “It’s been a decade since their last title, but this one means more than basketball. Multiple generations grew up with Kobe and the Lakers — they represented the work ethic and the positive mindset, that challenges are an opportunity to grow and get better. Kobe was my hero and this championship was a reminder that his legacy will live on forever.” 

On Tuesday, Oct. 27, the Los Angeles Dodgers became the 2020 MLB champions.

Dodgers fans were finally able to rejoice as their team ended the 32-year drought without a title. The seventh-overall championship might be the sweetest, especially with the recent World Series losses to the Boston Red Sox in 2018 and Houston Astros in 2017. However, at times, the regular season was far from sweet.

The season originally scheduled for March 26 was, of course, postponed. The MLB and MLA Players Association negotiated into June, but finally agreed to a 60-game schedule, far less than the normal 162-game season. 

The acquisition of outfielder Mookie Betts elevated this already loaded lineup to a patient crew of batters with the potential to pop off at any second. They finished the season with a 43-17 record and lots of momentum, winning 10 of their last 12 games.

After steamrolling through the Milwaukee Brewers and San Diego Padres the first two rounds of the playoffs, a date was set with the Atlanta Braves for a shot at another World Series. The Braves took a 3-1 lead in the series, but the Dodgers, led by big plays from Betts and outfielder Cody Bellinger, won the next three to advance. 

The Dodgers, with the second-highest payroll in the league, faced the Tampa Bay Rays with the third-lowest. Nevertheless, the Rays put up a fight pushing the Dodgers to six games. 

Ultimately, USC fans who were heartbroken in 2017 and 2018 finally felt relieved this time around.

“I was definitely more relieved than other years that we lost. I was a little sad that I couldn’t be there, because under normal circumstances I would be there,” said Jordan Tuchin, a junior majoring in political science. “But now we finally got the win after a long time. So it’s really great.”

Tuchin, who was quarantined in his dorm room, thought about flying out to Texas to watch the final games. However, the memories of prior Dodger losses impacted his decision.

“I sort of wish I’d went to Texas, but I am a little superstitious when it comes to sports,” he said. “And I thought maybe if I flew out it would be a waste of time if they lost because I’d just be so sad and I would be in Texas instead of at my home where I kind of recover from it.”

The victory, however, was marred by the positive coronavirus test of Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner. His return to the field to celebrate with his teammates stole some headlines away from the Dodgers’ impressive performance. 

Nevertheless, Dodgers World Series merchandise sold out in record time after their victory. A city that has been through so much this year was ready to celebrate yet another championship.

Abi Thomas, a junior majoring in creative writing, has lived in L.A. her whole life. Sports has always played an important role in her household, so she was overcome with joy when the team she’s supported since middle school finally won it all. 

She said that for her home city, this year’s World Series meant more than just a seventh championship.

“Given everything with COVID and all of the riots and everything going on socially, L.A., I feel like when they win something like this, it really brings everybody together,” Thomas said. “I think that having the Dodgers winning really is more of a solidarity thing.”

The last time both the Lakers and Dodgers won a title — 1988. L.A. is a city of champions once again brought together by two fantastic teams.