Anthony Davis wants to finish a crazy year with victory in the NBA Finals as he hailed the resilience of the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Lakers and Miami Heat will go head-to-head in the Finals, with Game 1 scheduled for Wednesday at Walt Disney World Resort.
It has been a difficult season for the Lakers, who mourned the death of legendary guard and five-time NBA champion Kobe Bryant following a helicopter crash in January.
The top-seeded Lakers, like rival teams, have also dealt with the coronavirus pandemic, which forced the league to be suspended in March before resuming inside the Orlando bubble in July.
Preparing for his maiden Finals appearance in his first season with the Lakers following a blockbuster trade from the New Orleans Pelicans, All-Star Davis told reporters on Tuesday: "It's special.
"It's been a crazy year. For us to continue to be a step closer to our dreams, to reach our goals, it's special.
"I think our team has been through the most this year, and we just kept on pushing, kept on fighting. With everything that's been going on, I kind of think the hiatus was actually good for us. It kind of just let us regroup because we had such a crazy year. The Lakers had such a crazy year.
"Now we want to make sure that we finish this thing off right. Our team is a team that handled adversity this year.
"We've been resilient. And now we feel like it's our jobs to finish the season off the way we wanted to start it, the same way we wanted to start it. We're four wins away from that, and it seems like it's all just come full circle."
It will be a reunion for LeBron James and the Heat in the Finals after the superstar won two championships in 2012 and 2013 during his time in Miami.
James – who also celebrated glory with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016 – has the chance to claim a fourth NBA title and Davis said: "He's a guy who obviously when he played against his former teams, he wants to win very bad, very badly, just like everyone else does.
"But to be back in the Finals against Miami I think means a lot more to him winning this than anyone else. I think this championship is probably second behind Cleveland, being able to get this one for him.
"I think this one is going to be a tough one. People said it's going to be the toughest championship in NBA history from a mental standpoint just because of the circumstances. But it's been fun to watch him. He goes to the Finals every year. Win or lose, he always comes back the next year. And to finally get back after last year and go against his former team, I'm pretty sure he's going to have a competitive series."
Lakers head coach Frank Vogel also hailed James, adding: "He's the best leader I've ever been around, the simplest way to put it, in terms of players. We've dealt with a lot, a lot of heavy emotional types of adversity that we've gone through, and he sets a great tone with his example.
"But he is also a great leader from a communicative standpoint, talking to guys, talking to the group about the right mindset to have, to be in certain situations, being the leading voice when things occur where we're all not really sure how to deal with it or what to say. You know, he's been a leading voice in those situations. Just an integral part of our success this year."