Pat Riley Clarifies Lakers 'Asterisk' Comments: 'Their Title Is Legitimate'

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistOctober 25, 2020

Miami Heat president Pat Riley watches before an NBA conference semifinal playoff basketball game against the Milwaukee Bucks Sunday, Sept. 6, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

Miami Heat president Pat Riley walked back some of his controversial words on Sunday.

"The asterisk is next to the Heat's name, not the Lakers," Riley said, per David Wilson of the Miami Herald. "Their title is legitimate. Our loss has an asterisk [next] to it. The Lakers were the better team. Period."

Sam Quinn of CBS Sports explained Riley previously turned heads when he suggested the Los Angeles Lakers' NBA Finals win over the Heat should come with an asterisk because of injuries to Goran Dragic and Bam Adebayo:

"They were the best team, but there's always going to be asterisk, that caveat. If we had Bam and Goran—Goran was our leading scorer in the playoffs—at 100 percent, it could have gone to seven games or whatever, but thank you for reminding me. I appreciate that, but I'm not going to look back on it. I'm just going to look at all the positive things, get Goran healthy and Bam healthy, and bring everybody back and try to add to the mix."

It is at least understandable that Riley and Heat fans would be left wondering what could have been after their NBA Finals loss.

After all, Dragic missed four games with a foot injury and was severely limited when he returned for Game 6. Adebayo missed two games because of a neck injury, which took Miami's best counter to Anthony Davis in the frontcourt away from its defense.

Dragic helped take much of the offensive pressure off Jimmy Butler's shoulders, and the latter was often left trying to go toe-to-toe with LeBron James in crunch time without much help.

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Still, the Lakers left little doubt who the champion was in Game 6 when they jumped out to a 30-point lead in the first half before shifting to cruise control for the remainder. Adebayo was back at that point and couldn't do nearly enough to counter the Anthony Davis-LeBron James combination.

It should also be noted that Miami's run through the Eastern Conference was at least aided by opposing injuries, as Domantas Sabonis did not play for the Indiana Pacers, Giannis Antetokounmpo suffered an injury in the second round for the Milwaukee Bucks and Gordon Hayward was limited for the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Yet Miami, just like the Lakers in the Finals, deserves plenty of credit for advancing in the difficult circumstances inside the Walt Disney World Resort bubble.