Lost in the NBA offseason soap opera that was superstar Lebron James and his "decision" to play in Miami next to stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh was the fact that the defending champions the Los Angeles Lakers had been ignored following a long, hard-fought seven-game title series with longtime rivals the Boston Celtics. They have come into this season with a chip of their shoulder as a result and have possibly been playing better basketball than they did when they won their 16th championship. Luckily, with the release of the Finals on Blu-ray, you can now compare for yourself.
The Lakers started their 2009-10 season with a celebration of their Championship win over Orlando the previous season and the banner hanging/ring ceremony that usually precedes a team's play the following season. There was a significant player acquisition in the offseason as they signed Ron Artest from Houston. Artest had had a history of erratic behavior, culminating in starting a fight in the stands during a game in 2004, but he seemed to be righting his ship personally in recent years and said if the Lakers didn't defend their title, the fans could feel free to blame him. Additionally after a tenuous contract negotiation, forward Lamar Odom resigned with the team as well, rejoining Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and the other core members of the team.
The team played well in the regular season, taking over first place in the Western Conference in December and never relinquishing the lead. In the playoffs, they defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round 4-2 in a best of seven game series and swept the Utah Jazz in four straight in the next one, where they met the Phoenix Suns. The teams won each of the games on their home court before the Lakers broke the streak and clinched the series in Phoenix, and they faced a familiar foe in the Boston Celtics. The two teams' championship rivalry means some magical moments and has made legends of some of those who participated in those series, including Chamberlain, Russell, Bird and Johnson to name a few. Boston was bringing back Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce for another round against the Lakers, and had an emerging star in guard Rajon Rondo. The two teams met in the 2008 Finals and the Celtics won a hard-fought series four games to two.
The loss still stung for Bryant, to the point where he almost took it personally, scoring 30 points for the 10th time in 11 straight games en route to a 102-89 win. Game 2 saw the Celtics play better and contain Bryant defensively, evening up the series with a 103-94 win. Returning to Boston, the Lakers shut down Allen and the rest of the Celtics to win 91-84, while Boston returned fire with a defensive effort of their own in a 96-89 Game 4 win. The Celtics got 27 from Pierce (along with 18 points and 10 rebounds from Garnett) to take Game 5 92-86 despite 38 points from Bryant, and with the last two games in Los Angeles the Lakers virtually skunked the Celtics 89-67 and in Game 7 took the series 83-79. Bryant took the Playoffs Most Valuable Player award for the second year in a row, and over the longtime Laker rivals he took particular enjoyment.
All 7 games of the series are presented over four Blu-ray discs, which is encouraging whether you are a fan of the Lakers or of the sport in general. With the Major League Baseball discs only providing the games a winning series team wins during the playoffs, having the whole Finals not only further appreciates the road that the Lakers took to win their championship, but also appreciates the effort that both teams exerted to try and grab the trophy one more time. The games are straightforward presentations, with "chapter" selections by quarter or you can watch the whole game beginning to end. As far as menus go, there's a small overhead scoreboard that pops up and you can select the game or quarter you wish to watch, conveying environment further in its own little way.
By sticking to the story and not eliminating or adding anything to it, the set (produced by Image Entertainment) helps to cast a wider net to other sports fans rather than just limiting it to the winning team. As one who didn't have a horse in either side of the NBA Finals race I enjoyed watching the whole series and getting a better appreciation for the quality of play, and it'll be interesting to see how the Lakers cope with the superteam down in Florida in June 2011 if fates serve everyone the right way.
The games and supplements are presented in 1.78:1 high-definition widescreen and in 1080i, all of which using the AVC codec. I watched bits and pieces of the games in HD when they aired, and honestly I did not expect much of a revelation here. The games are reproduced very well and possess the same level of detail as the broadcast material does. Shadow delineation and black levels are also consistent with the broadcasts, and the overall material is faithful to the broadcasts and looks good.
The back of the case lists a Dolby 2.0 Stereo soundtrack for the supplements and a DTS-HD Master Audio lossless track for the games, though all the games appear to output a stereo track only. Honestly I was somewhat surprised the games would get a lossless track, but the stereo listening is perfectly acceptable nonetheless. Still, if you are going to list it, put it on there.
Each game has what's called a "Mini-Movie" that's designed to give you an inside look before, during and after each game. Running five to eight minutes in length, they include pre-game thoughts from some of the players, practice footage and some alternate angles of each game, along with some post-game thoughts. Pretty quick, but a nice inclusion. Also nice is the inclusion of post-game interviews from each game. The press gets a chance to grill the key players from the respective games, and you can either look at one subject or there's a 'Play All' function, and each post-game session runs around 35 minutes in length, give or take.
The Blu-ray boxed set of the Los Angeles Lakers' NBA Finals win over the Boston Celtics makes for high drama and entertainment, and it's nice to see the whole Finals included in this set. It could use some work on the bonus material side of things, but if you are looking to revisit the glory, this set is for you.