Lakers finished with 'Level 1' and are ready for whoever comes next (2023)

LOS ANGELES — Despite leading the Memphis Grizzlies by 30 points late in the third quarter of Game 6, Anthony Davis chased a loose ball near the Lakers bench, saving it behind him as he sailed out of bounds and eventually toppled over.

The ball ricocheted out of bounds off Jaren Jackson Jr., who had tried to smack it to teammate Santi Aldama. As Davis returned from the area toward the locker room tunnel, his teammates dapped and hyped him up. In a rare display of emotion, Davis smiled and turned to the crowd, waving his arms to get them on their feet.


As the Lakers aligned to inbound the ball, the fans at Arena rose to their feet and started chanting, “AD! AD! AD!”

Davis’ effort embodied the Lakers’ business-like attitude in their series-clinching 125-85 win over the Grizzlies in Game 6. They didn’t want to just win — they wanted to send a message. In a series full of trash-talk, largely from the other side, the Lakers let their elimination-game blowout serve as their final response.

In front of an especially star-studded crowd — super fan Jack Nicholson attended his first Lakers game since October 2021, with Larry David, Dr. Dre, Adele and Kyrie Irving among others also in the building — the Lakers closed out a playoff series on their home floor for the first time since 2012.

Game 6: Jack's Back

— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) April 29, 2023

“It was definitely a Game 7 mentality for us,” LeBron James said. “We understood that we had an opportunity to play in front of our fans and we wanted to try to end it tonight.”

The Lakers made history on Friday, becoming the second No. 7 seed in the best-of-seven first-round era to beat a No. 2 seed and just the sixth No. 7 seed to win overall. They also became the second Play-In Tournament team to advance to the second round, joining the Miami Heat, which did so earlier in the week when they shocked the Milwaukee Bucks in five games.

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Los Angeles set the tone from the game’s opening minutes — particularly on the defensive end, which is where the Lakers won this series.

Jarred Vanderbilt hounded Ja Morant around screens. Davis blocked and altered any shot within six feet of the rim. James was locked in, playing with a verve and physicality defensively that he didn’t have in Game 5. Austin Reaves mirrored Desmond Bane around screens and did his best to absorb body blows. D’Angelo Russell was in the right spots.

By the midway point of the first quarter, the game was showing signs of a rout. The Lakers led by double digits at the end of the first, by 17 points at halftime and by as many as 36 points in a dominant third quarter in which they flashed their terrifying two-way potential. Overall, the Lakers shot 53.8 percent from the floor and held Memphis to 30.2 percent shooting.

After starting the season 2-10, the Lakers are arguably the hottest team in the NBA right now, having won 14 of their last 18 games.

They open the Western Conference semifinals on the road Tuesday against the winner of Sunday’s Game 7 between the Sacramento Kings and the defending champion Golden State Warriors. Regardless of their opponent, they’re confident this playoff run is going to last a while.

“This thing is just getting started,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said. “We passed Level 1. Now we’ve got to start shifting our focus to whoever comes out of that game on Sunday.”

Their bounce-back performance in Game 6 was a couple of days in the making. Following the Lakers’ disappointing Game 5 blowout loss, Ham, James and Davis reconvened, and Ham observed what he felt was a “switch that had come on already” with his stars. James and Davis later texted about adjustments and the requisite focus they needed to discuss with their teammates to close out Memphis.

When Ham arrived at the arena at 3:10 p.m. — over four hours before the 7:30 p.m. tip-off — James was already there, getting shots up and going through his pregame routine. Davis arrived shortly after.

“It was one of those things where you knew,” Ham said. “You felt the vibe. … That focus, those guys being ready to go.”

James and Davis improved to 5-0 in playoff series in which they are both healthy. Furthermore, when James and Davis both finish a postseason game, they are 22-8. They remain elite, even if they’ve visually lost a step offensively. With their bolstered supporting cast — in addition to James and Davis, four other Lakers already have scored at least 20 points in a postseason game — the Lakers are looking like a group that can make a conference finals or NBA Finals run despite their No. 7 seed standing.

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James, who vowed after his lackluster Game 5 performance that he’d be better in Game 6, kept his promise, leading Los Angeles with 16 points in the first half. He finished with 22 points, six assists and five rebounds.

He was an efficient 9 of 13 from the floor and even uncorked a vintage reverse dunk in the half court after getting a running start past rookie David Roddy.


LeBron and the Lakers are rolling in Game 6 on ESPN!

— NBA (@NBA) April 29, 2023

The series win was the 40th of his career, tying James with Derek Fisher for the most all time in franchise history.

“It’s unreal, man,” Ham said of James. “I’m telling you, man, it’s unreal. Like, Kobe was nothing short of amazing. You know, Giannis. I’ve been around some top-tier, elite top-five NBA talent. But Bron, man, I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Davis, meanwhile, concluded his defensive masterpiece of a series. He was once again the most impactful player on the floor — without being the leading scorer.

He amassed 16 points, 14 rebounds and five blocks, giving him 26 blocks across the series’ six games (4.3 blocks per game). Davis altered nearly a dozen other shots in the paint, and Memphis began to second-guess challenging Davis during the second and third quarters. He put fear in the once-fearless Grizzlies.

“I think he was AD,” James said. “I think he was AD. I think we all know it, the world knows it, the basketball guys know, the competition knows … how dominant AD is defensively. So, he was AD. He was spectacular.”


“Huge,” Russell said of Davis’ defense. “I don’t want it to go unnoticed with everything that’s going on, but the fact that he was not scoring some games but always dominating the game defensively is huge for our team, and he’s more than capable when he’s on the floor.”


James and Davis were able to rest for the entire fourth quarter, in part because of the avalanche of 3s Russell made in the third quarter (four) to fully bury the Grizzlies.

Russell, who had never shot 50 percent or better in a playoff game, scored a playoff career-high 31 points on 12-of-17 shooting, including 5-of-9 shooting on 3s. His knack for making momentum-swinging plays kept escalating as the crowd reached a state of pandemonium in the second half.

The presence of Irving, who has famously been linked to the Lakers dating to last summer, loomed large too. He arrived moments before tip-off, sharing a pregame handshake and embrace with James, and sat courtside opposite the Lakers bench.

LJ & Kai pregame in LA!

— NBA (@NBA) April 29, 2023

In the case that the Lakers acquire Irving, via free agency or sign-and-trade, it would require them to part ways with Russell (who was already replaced by Irving in Brooklyn in 2019). Russell’s performance on Friday seemed to be partially sparked by Irving’s attendance.

From a tactical perspective, arguably the most pivotal change came from Ham paring down the rotation andfinally countered the non-Davis minutes, which had been a struggle all series.

Ham inserted Wenyen Gabriel, who briefly played in a successful stint in Game 5, at center, forming a frontcourt of Gabriel, James and Rui Hachimura. He also kept Troy Brown Jr. and Malik Beasley on the bench most of game, instead going with a backcourt of Dennis Schröder and Reaves.

The starting lineup, as a whole, continued to dominate. Reaves put up 11 points, six rebounds and eight assists. Vanderbilt drained three 3s and helped hold Morant to a 3-of-16 shooting performance.

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Both teams pulled their starters with more than nine minutes remaining as L.A. led by more than 30 points.


“We didn’t want to go back to Memphis, to say the least,” Reaves said. “We wanted to end it here tonight on our home court.”

The Lakers refrained from responding to Dillon Brooks’ trash-talk toward James, but they got the last laugh.

When they got back to their locker room, they started chanting Memphis’ victory song, “Whoop That Trick!” from the movie “Hustle & Flow.” The Memphis coaches and players, speaking in the Lakers’ typical postgame news conference room (the Lakers were in a larger room Friday), could hear the entire celebration.

Once the festivities calmed, James imparted some wisdom on his teammates, many of whom are under 30 and in their first or second postseason run.

“As hard as this series felt, as hard as this series was, it gets even harder when you move a level up. So, we was able to conquer Level 1, and now we move to Level 2. And it gets harder and harder. So, they understood that, and they’ll be ready for it.”

The Lakers will take off Saturday before regrouping on Sunday to practice and watch Game 7 of Kings-Warriors.

The next series will be a different type of challenge, as they’ll be facing opponents with much greater offensive talent than the Grizzlies. Sacramento and Golden State have elite offenses that thrive on movement, screening and 3-point shooting. In many ways, it’s a stylistic 180. The Lakers will likely need to shoot better and defend at an even higher level.

The greatest challenge, however, might be the grueling nature of the schedule; once Game 1 tips off Tuesday, the series will be every other day. James noted the travel will be less brutal given how much closer San Francisco and Sacramento are to Los Angeles.

The Lakers’ fairytale turnaround will continue for at least another week. Just under three months ago, they were out of the Play-In Tournament and appeared to be on the brink of back-to-back disaster seasons. Now, they’re in the Western Conference semifinals, with a legitimate chance against both Sacramento and Golden State.

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“Whoever comes out on top, we’ll be ready to go,” Ham said.

Related reading

Vardon: Where do the Grizzlies go from here?

(Photo of D’Angelo Russell and Anthony Davis: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)


Who is number 17 on the Lakers? ›

Dennis Schröder (German pronunciation: [ˈʃʀøːdɐ]; born September 15, 1993) is a German professional basketball player for the Los Angeles Lakers of the National Basketball Association (NBA).
Dennis Schröder.
No. 17 – Los Angeles Lakers
PositionPoint guard
Personal information
BornSeptember 15, 1993 Braunschweig, Germany
25 more rows

Who is number 23 on the Lakers? ›

23 Lakers Jersey. Anthony Davis wore the No. 23 at both Kentucky and with the New Orleans Pelicans, but LeBron James also wore the number, and given James' seniority, it was assumed he would keep the number with the two paired on the Los Angeles Lakers.

Who is number 48 on the Lakers? ›

Troy Brown Jr. Los Angeles Lakers |

Who is number 22 on the Lakers? ›

Wenyen Gabriel | Los Angeles Lakers |

Who wore #1 for the Lakers? ›

1 — D'Angelo Russell

But I would argue that no player wearing No.

Who is number 0 on the Lakers jersey? ›

Kyle Kuzma has donned no. 0 since he was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers and can make the case of being the best no. 0 in team history.

Is number 6 retired in the NBA? ›

The NBA and NBPA announced today that they will honor the life and legacy of 11-time NBA champion and civil rights pioneer Bill Russell by permanently retiring his uniform number, 6, throughout the league.

What NBA team has no retired numbers? ›

As of 2022, only two teams in the NBA do not have any retired numbers: the Los Angeles Clippers and the Toronto Raptors.

Can LeBron still wear number 6? ›

6 would never be issued again. Players who sported the number pre-retirement, such as James, are allowed to continue to wear it. The former Boston Celtics star's impact went far beyond the basketball court as he fought against racial inequality.

Who wore 99 for Lakers? ›

Legends profile: George Mikan

George Mikan was the NBA's first superstar and led the Minneapolis Lakers to five titles from 1949-54.

Who wore 44 for Lakers? ›

Jerry West (born May 28, 1938) is a former American basketball player. He is thought to be one of the best guards who ever played in the NBA. He played from 1960 to 1974, all with the Los Angeles Lakers. He wore number 44, which was retired by the Lakers.

Who wore 13 on the Lakers? ›

Wilt Chamberlain
Personal information
Coaching career1973–1974
Career history
33 more rows

Who is 7 on Lakers? ›

Troy Brown Jr.

Who is 33 for the Lakers? ›

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar - Wikipedia.

Who wore 33 on the Lakers? ›

The Los Angeles Lakers number 33 shirt, jersey worn by Earvin Magic Johnson. At the NBA Basketball Hall Of Fame Museum.

Is number 13 retired in the NBA? ›

Bill Russell is the only player who has had his number retired league-wide.
Complete list of retired player numbers in the NBA.
TeamPlayer nameNumber
Detroit PistonsBill Laimbeer40
Golden State WarriorsBill Russell6
Golden State WarriorsWilt Chamberlain13
Golden State WarriorsTom Meschery14
153 more rows
Mar 8, 2023

Is the number 13 retired for the Lakers? ›

Gasol's jersey represents the 13th number retired by the Lakers honoring 12 players. Bryant's early-career No. 8 and late-career No. 24 are both retired.

Is Lakers 34 retired? ›

Shaquille O'Neal (34)

He arrived at the Lakers in 1996 and reigned with an iron fist during the first years of the new century. He won three consecutive rings in 2000, 2001 and 2002 with two Finals MVP awards. He played 514 games before leaving for Miami in 2004.

Who won 99 to 00 in the NBA? ›

The 1999–2000 NBA season was the 54th season of the National Basketball Association. The season ended with the Los Angeles Lakers winning the NBA championship, beating the Indiana Pacers 4 games to 2 in the 2000 NBA Finals. This would also be Charles Barkley's final season in the NBA.

Who is the best number 00 in NBA history? ›

Robert Parish, the Hall of Famer whose stoicism earned him the nickname Chief in reference to the “One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest” character, played more games than anyone else in NBA history, averaging more than 78 games for two straight decades and sporting No. 00 for all of them.

Who wears number 00 in the NBA right now? ›

0: Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics. Jayson Tatum jumps past Damian Lillard as the top No. 0 after earning his first first-team All-NBA nod and making his first trip to the NBA Finals.

Is number 42 retired in all sports? ›

In 1997, MLB retired his uniform No. 42 across all major league teams; he was the first professional athlete in any sport to be so honored. MLB also adopted a new annual tradition, "Jackie Robinson Day", for the first time on April 15, 2004, on which every player on every team wears No. 42.

Is anyone number 69 in NBA? ›

No NBA player has ever worn the number 69, which is believed to be implicitly banned due to its sexual connotations; the NBA has never confirmed this. Dennis Rodman allegedly requested the number 69 when he joined the Dallas Mavericks but was refused and instead wore 70.

Will the NBA retire 23? ›

The Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat retired the number 23 in honor of Michael Jordan. Jordan never played for the Miami Heat. Jordan is one of the 14 people to have a number retired by two different teams.

What is the rarest number in the NBA? ›

Aside from 55, there aren't many numbers in the 51-99 range that an individual player wore for more than a season or two. In fact, the following numbers have never been worn: 58, 59, 64, 69, 74, 75, 78, 79, 80, 82, 87 and 97. This is the biggest reason we decided to implement a "minimum five years" requirement.

Is it OK to wear a retired players jersey? ›

Once a number is retired, no future player from the team may wear that number on their uniform, unless the player so-honored permits it; however, in many cases the number cannot be used at all.

Why is Jordan's number not retired? ›

It was another accolade for MJ

The Heat didn't have any obligation to perform this historic gesture. MJ never played for the franchise, and his jersey number didn't need to be retired. However, the team respected Jordan so much that they felt compelled to do so.

Why is number 32 retired in the NBA? ›

Julius Erving

During a final appearance against the Nets in 1987, the organization honored him by retiring his No. 32 in recognition of his time with the ABA's New York Nets. The second ceremony came when the 76ers retired his No. 6 in April 1988.

Who wears #7 in the NBA? ›

340 Players
Adrian Dantley*Milwaukee Bucks (91)
Mark DavisMinnesota Timberwolves (96) Philadelphia 76ers (97, 98) Miami Heat (99) Golden State Warriors (00)
Sam DekkerHouston Rockets (16, 17) Los Angeles Clippers (18)
Tony DelkBoston Celtics (03) Dallas Mavericks (04)
189 more rows

How rich was Bill Russell? ›

Bill Russell was a legendart American basketball player who had a net worth of $10 million at the time of his death.

Who is the hottest Lakers fan? ›

Hottest LA Hoops Fans
  • Rihanna. Ever since Good Girl, Gone Bad Rihanna has been a bad girl going to basketball games, most of them at the Staples Center. ...
  • Paris Hilton. ...
  • Mila Kunis. ...
  • Alyssa Milano. ...
  • Kaley Cuoco. ...
  • Megan Fox. ...
  • Bar Refaeli. ...
  • Jessica Biel.
May 9, 2014

Who has worn 18 on Lakers? ›

Here's what's on the menu Chez Numero 18.... Ray Ellefson, Arnie Ferrin, Pep Saul, Bob Carney, Dan Sunderlage, Chuck Mencel, Kurt Rambis and Sasha Vujacic.

Who wore 52 for the Lakers? ›

Wilkes won three more NBA championships with the Lakers. His jersey No. 52 was retired by both the Bruins and the Lakers.

Who is the oldest living NBA player? ›

There are 31 players who played in the NBA after they turned 40. The oldest active player is Udonis Haslem, who is now 42 years old. Haslem played his first game in the 2003–04 NBA season and has played for 20 seasons. He is the only player born before 1984 who is still active and under contract with an NBA team.

Who wore 99 in NBA? ›

George Mikan was the NBA's first superstar and led the Minneapolis Lakers to five titles from 1949-54.

Who did LA trade for Kobe? ›

The Hornets had the 13th pick in the 1996 NBA draft, and selected high school basketball star Kobe Bryant, but soon traded him to the Los Angeles Lakers in exchange for Vlade Divac, acquired Anthony Mason from the New York Knicks, and signed free agent Tony Smith during the off-season.

How did Wilt lose an arm? ›

Wilt, setting aside the victory, rushed in and pushed Jordan out of the way just as Larry came down, saving Jordan's life, but crushing Wilt's left arm, leaving it crooked. The ball went through the basket and knocked out his left eye, bending it into its current shape.

Did Wilt Chamberlain have a 50 inch vertical? ›

Wilt “The Stilt” Chamberlain owns the highest vertical jump in NBA history, reaching a height of 48 inches.

Who wears 5 in the NBA? ›

372 Players
Al-Farouq AminuChicago Bulls (21)
Derek AndersonMiami Heat (06)
James AndersonHouston Rockets (13) Sacramento Kings (16)
Kyle AndersonMinnesota Timberwolves (23)
191 more rows

Who wore number 28 on the Lakers? ›

In a recent interview with ESPN commentator Stephen A. Smith, Lakers owner Jeannie Buss revealed the reasons for Hachimura choosing the number No. 28 for his Lakers jersey.

Who is number 29 on the Lakers? ›

Austin Tyler Reaves (born May 29, 1998) is a German-American professional basketball player for the Los Angeles Lakers of the National Basketball Association (NBA). He played college basketball for the Wichita State Shockers and the Oklahoma Sooners.

Who is number 37 on Lakers? ›

Kostas Antetokounmpo | Los Angeles Lakers |

Who wore 21 in Lakers? ›

21 — Michael Cooper

One of the greatest defensive players in Lakers history, Michael Cooper won five championships with the Showtime Lakers.

Who retired number 33? ›

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar - Bucks, Lakers

33 retired by both teams he played for. Abdul-Jabbar spent his first six seasons with the Milwaukee Bucks, averaging 30.4 points per game. He played 14 seasons with the Lakers, with whom he scored 24,176 of his 38,387 career points.

Who wore Lakers #24? ›

When late Los Angeles Lakers Hall of Fame shooting guard Kobe Bryant changed his jersey number from eight to 24 during the 2006-07 season, he explained it at the time as "growth" from his prior digits. "Then 24 is a growth from [No. 8]," Bryant once said.

Who wore 31 for Lakers? ›

Lakers Video: Thomas Bryant Explains Why He Wears No. 31.

Who is number 57 on the Lakers? ›


Who is number 17 in NBA? ›

17. Mike Dunleavy, Jr.

Who wears jersey number 17 in NBA? ›

168 Players
Willie McCarterPortland Trail Blazers (72)
Doug McDermottSan Antonio Spurs (22, 23)
Rodney McGruderMiami Heat (17, 18, 19) Detroit Pistons (21, 22, 23)
Bones McKinneyWashington Capitols (47, 48, 49, 50) Boston Celtics (51, 52)
164 more rows

Who is number 17 New Orleans basketball? ›

Jonas Valančiūnas
No. 17 – New Orleans Pelicans
Personal information
Born6 May 1992 Utena, Lithuania
21 more rows

What is the current Lakers lineup? ›

Who got the number 69 banned in the NBA? ›

No NBA player has ever worn the number 69, which is believed to be implicitly banned due to its sexual connotations; the NBA has never confirmed this.

Is number 69 allowed in NBA? ›

Out of all the numbers that have been worn by players in NBA history, the No. 69 hasn't been worn by anyone in the league. The reason behind this is because the number is used to refer to a sexual position. Being a family-friendly league, the NBA decided to ban the number from being worn by any player.

Is 23 retired in the NBA? ›

The Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat retired the number 23 in honor of Michael Jordan. Jordan never played for the Miami Heat. Jordan is one of the 14 people to have a number retired by two different teams.

Who wears 0 for the Bucks? ›

M. Beauchamp

Who wears 00 in the NBA? ›

0: Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics.

Who is number 13 on heat? ›

Bam Adebayo #13C255 lbs
Orlando Robinson #25C235 lbs
Omer Yurtseven #77C275 lbs
Cody Zeller #44C240 lbs

Who was 7 on OKC? ›

Chet Holmgren

Whose number is 21 in basketball? ›

Most iconic NBA numbers: #21 – Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan.

Who is #2 on the Lakers 2023? ›

2Jarred Vanderbilt214
1D'Angelo Russell193
12Mo Bamba231
20Cole Swider (TW)220
13 more rows

Who did Lakers get in trade? ›

The Jazz will send Malik Beasley and Jarred Vanderbilt to the Lakers, and they will trade Mike Conley and Nickeil Alexander-Walker to Minnesota. Russell, 26, who had been with Minnesota since the 2019-20 season, has had an up-and-down career.

Who is Lakers starting 5? ›

Starting Lineup
SGAustin Reaves A. Reaves1.5
SFJarred Vanderbilt J. Vanderbilt1.2
PFLeBron James L. James3.2
CAnthony Davis A. Davis2.2
1 more row


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