Why Rajon Rondo’s Lakers Title Is His Road To Redemption

Getty Images LeBron James, Rajon Rondo of the Los Angeles Lakers after winning the 2020 NBA Chmpionship in Game Six of the 2020 NBA Finals

Los Angeles Lakers veteran point guard Rajon Rondo’s unprecedented 12-year journey from one NBA title to another embedded a new wrinkle into the league’s most storied rivalry.

Capturing his second title Sunday night after a Game 6 Finals-clinching win, Rondo joins Clyde Lovellette in becoming only the second player to win a championship with both the Lakers and the Boston Celtics. Winners of a combined 34 championships, the Lakers and Celtics are now tied at 17 for the most in league history, however, for Rondo, it’s much deeper than that.

“It’s been a long time for me,” Rondo said Sunday, per NBA.com. “To be able to come back and redeem myself and play a big part in this championship is definitely a hell of a feeling, and something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”

For a player who knows what it’s like to fall short in a Game 7 of an NBA Finals game, Rondo is all too familiar with what can happen when you don’t take full advantage of an opportunity to close out an opponent. His 19 points, four rebounds helped secure a 106-93 win on Sunday.

2010 NBA Finals: Los Angeles Lakers vs Boston Celtics

To this day, reliving 2010’s best-of-7 against the Lakers is still unbearable, per Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe.

“I think I blurred a lot of it out,” Rondo said when asked about that Game 7. “It was ugly. We were up 3-2 and obviously, we didn’t get the job done. We were up in the fourth quarter that stands out to me, as well. But Kobe played well. He didn’t have a great offensive scoring night, but he did a lot of intangibles. He had I think 18 rebounds (15, actually).”

Rondo revealed prior to Game 6 that he’s made it a point to pass down wisdom he learned from those years to his younger Lakers teammates.

“Well, when I was a lot younger I had a lot of success,” Rondo said. “I won [a title] at [22] years old and now being 34, it’s a completely different experience, and understanding that this doesn’t come often or annually. Being back here over a decade later is a very humbling experience, and I’m letting my guys know from all the rookies to the second-or-third-year players like [Kyle Kuzma], that this opportunity doesn’t come often. Guys search for this moment their entire career, and we definitely have to seize the moment.”

Rajon Rondo’s Mythological Odyssey

It took over a decade for Rondo to return back to the grand stage. In fact, throughout the past 10 years, Rondo shared similar underlying themes in contrast to what Odysseus endured in Homer’s Greek epic poem the Odyssey. Odysseus, known for his intellectual brilliance and versatility, fittingly matches Rondo’s persona on and off the court.

Framed in the “too smart for his own good” label by some critics, Rondo’s gift was more often a curse in his later years. Although Rondo received high praise for his high basketball-IQ throughout his early days, his post-Celtics years were tumultuous, to say the least.

Rondo’s road to redemption had a little bit of everything, didn’t it? He suffered a season-ending injury (torn ACL), clashed with head coaches, walked away from team huddles, nearly led a playoff-series upset under his ‘Playoff Rondo’ moniker (that he really hates) before, unfortunately, breaking his right thumb.

Still, in the end, he led when it mattered most, and most importantly, while instilling trust and confidence in his teammates. He averaged 9 points, 6.6 assists, 1.4 steals while shooting 45.5% from the floor, including 40% from behind the arc throughout the postseason. The numbers may not jump out at you but his timely passing and defensive stops made a tremendous difference.

It’s what made Los Angeles home for Rondo; it gave him an opportunity to compete at the highest level; adapt, develop, lead, and conquer. Rajon admits life after Boston wasn’t easy; he had to learn how to adjust to new surroundings – which happened often throughout 2014-2018.

“Down the road [in] Year 10, 11, things changed for me in my career,” Rondo explained. “Every time going into training camp, you weren’t expected to win a championship because of the teams I was on. So, that was a different mindset coming into the season. But to be able to get back to this, this season in particular, understanding that we did have a team to compete for a championship from Day 1, and to be able to come full circle an entire year later, we reached our goal and our dream.”

Much like Odysseus’ 10-year journey at the end of the Trojan War, Rondo’s adventurous career was filled with stops in several different time zones, including a short stint in Dallas and consecutive one-year stays in Sacramento, Chicago, and New Orleans. And much like Odysseus does in the Greek classic, Rondo can recount plenty of experiences, battles he fought before returning back to the top of the NBA throne rubbing elbows with Finals MVP LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

Odysseus certainly tested the loyalty of others, something I think Rondo can certainly relate to as, he too, was a journeyman before reaching the City of Angels – where he eventually found a home.

Rajon Rondo’s Dedication To Kobe Bryant

Rondo’s gone toe-to-toe with some of the greats throughout his years and now he leaves behind his own legacy; a unique chapter for a 34-year-old veteran who’s 12 years removed from the kid that once upon a time captured his first ring next to Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.

“I got to compete against Kobe Bryant when I was 21,” Rondo said. “So his game and his legacy speaks for itself. Me being a kid from Lousiville, Kentucky, to be able to compete with Kobe two years into the league, understand and learn so much from him by watching his film and studying his film, it’s definitely an honor.

“And to come full circle to win in his honor, his daughter’s honor, an unbelievable season that we’ve had. And to be able to prevail and stay focused and continue to get the job done, I know something, he’s definitely smiling down on us. We’re able to fulfill our dream and succeed with the championship.”

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