The Los Angeles Lakers Road Trip Experience is a four-part mini-blog documenting my journey to the East Coast to follow the Lakers. This is part-journalism, part-fanhood.
You really know you're in Canada when you walk in a bar and see curling and NHL flooding the TV screens.
My final destination took me to beautiful Toronto, Ontario. The previous locales I had visited were all having mild winters with the temperature above 40 degrees in New York, Boston and Philadelphia.
Toronto, though, was cold. The city wore a bridal gown with all the snow that had settled in the area and it was stunning for a Los Angeleno who never really sees anything other than rain and the occasional hailstorm.
While the Los Angeles Lakers were taking their warmups before the game, I scoured the concourse level of the Air Canada Centre and I found a middle aged man playing EA Sports' NHL 12 on a Playstation 3.
Seeing that I was in Canada, the home of hockey, I decided to dual the man for a bit until the game started. I was playing as the Florida Panthers and he was the Toronto Maple Leafs. After I scored three goals against him, he was visibly upset so I left him and went back to my seat.
Speaking of hockey, one could easily think that basketball is a niche sport north of the border because of the dominance of the NHL. That is a fallacy, though. The ACC was jam-packed and ready to see Kobe Bryant.
In the first half of the game, the arena was silent other than the several thousand Lakers fans who were enjoying the Lakers' early blowout.
That being said, one man refused to be quiet. He was a diehard Toronto Raptors fan sitting on my left and no matter the score, this man continued to cheer for his team and annihilate the Lakers with harsh words throughout the game.
It was quite entertaining listening to him when the Lakers looked like they were going to easily wrap up the final game of their road trip. Here are a few bits and pieces of the fan being rowdy.
As always, I decided to get some food during halftime. Considering I hadn't ate all day, I decided to really load up and get full. I paid $11.25 (Canadian dollars) for a Molson (hey, when in Canada, do as the Canadians do). I also dropped $24 for a rib sandwich and sushi. Yes, sushi.
All of it was delicious. It also goes to show the extents a hungry man will go through to satisfy an empty stomach. $35.25 was a tad too much despite the great tasting food.
When the second half started, the Lakers only had a 10-point lead. However, Jose Calderon and the Raptors were determined to cut the lead even more.
That, they did.
As the lead grew slimmer, the crowd started to wake up. All of a sudden, the Air Canada Centre sounded like a basketball arena. Fans were excited at the prospects of seeing their team come back down from a large deficit and defeat Kobe Bryant's Lakers.
One interesting observation I noticed was that fans were not as negative and demeaning toward the Lakers, other than the fan that was sitting next to me. As a whole, the crowd was much more peaceful than New York and Boston.
It might've been because it was a day game, but it also might've been because it was Toronto. Maybe it was just a confluence of both reasons.
That being said, the fans were really passionate for their team. With over three minutes remaining in the ballgame, the entire arena got on their feet, which was something that didn't happen until late in overtime back in Boston.
There was tension in the stands as Lakers and Raptors fans alike braced themselves for an unbelievable finish.
Then, the Mamba struck.
As you can see, the fan that was sitting next to me couldn't believe it either. His jaw was hanging in disbelief as the Lakers went on to win the final game of their road trip, 94-92.
Joy filled the hearts of Laker fans in the ACC and Raptor fans seemed a bit apathetic. They were just happy their team kept it competitive. After all, they're a long way from the playoffs, so it makes sense why a Toronto fan would be content with that loss.
As I exited the Air Canada Centre, I had a bittersweet feeling in the chambers of my heart. I was happy that the Lakers won two of the four games that I attended, but at the same time I was going to miss this amazing trip.
I spent nights on trains, buses and yes even spent a night at Penn Station with a bunch of homeless people.
It was grueling and exhausting, but I got the taste of what it feels like to be a journalist traveling with the team that you get paid to cover. I loved every bit of it and the experience motivated me to keep chasing my big dreams.