L.A. Lakers Proving You Don't Have to Be Good to Be No. 1

Ehran KhanContributor IIIApril 8, 2013

With the sport's most polarizing athlete as the face of the franchise, it's no wonder that there's always buzz surrounding the Lakers.
With the sport's most polarizing athlete as the face of the franchise, it's no wonder that there's always buzz surrounding the Lakers.Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Lakers aren't just an iconic basketball team. They're a global brand.

According to Forbes, the Lakers are the most valuable organization in the NBA by far.

Their net worth of approximately $900 million is 115 percent more than the second-place New York Knicks. They're worth more than the Chicago Cubs (an iconic baseball team in the country’s third largest TV market) and no fewer than eight NFL franchises. 

In entertainment, and the NBA is purely a form of entertainment when you boil it down, your worth is based on your relevance. 

And the Lakers are always relevant, even when they're just fighting to extend their season long enough to (most likely) get undressed in the first round of the playoffs by a superior foe.

It's only fitting that the league's most drama-laden team plays its ball under the shadow of the Hollywood sign, with Tinseltown's brightest stars dotting the crowd.

Just think about all the juicy storylines to come out of Lakerland since last summer.

There were the blockbuster deals in the offseason to acquire Steve Nash and Dwight Howard.

Their horrific start to the season resulting in Mike Brown's dismissal five games into the campaign.

The will-they-or-won't-they dance with Phil Jackson before suddenly deciding Mike D'Antoni was their man.

All the injuries to their superstars and key role players (no Laker will appear in all 82 games this season).

Bottoming out at eight games under .500 in late January before a furious push to climb back into the playoff picture, sparked by the unearthing of the previously disregarded Earl Clark.

Kobe Bryant continuing to reach historic milestones and prove he's part basketball cyborg.

You get the picture.

Everything that happens to this franchise is a talking point. Even the seemingly simple ceremony to retire Shaquille O'Neal's jersey last week fueled talk radio in L.A. all week and got airplay nationally, just because people thought it was worth arguing whether Bryant was obligated (he wasn't) to have been on the court for it instead of in the locker room.

Bryant alone makes the Lakers as buzz-worthy as any team in the NBA.

He remains the most polarizing basketball player of his generation. You either adore the man or despise him. There's no real middle ground.

Speaking as a native of Los Angeles, I can tell you that 98 percent of Clippers fans (excluding Chris Paul-era bandwagon-hoppers) began rooting for the Clips because they hate the Lakers.

And for those fans of my generation, their hatred for the Lakers is rooted in their hatred for the Black Mamba.

Between the Michael Jordan comparisons, the clutch-ness debates, the ball-hogging accusations, the aloofness in his interactions with teammates and the media, the scandals (Eagle, Colorado; the messy breakup with Shaq), the Jaw Face and the enviable, undeniable success he's had, there's always a tornado of talk surrounding Bryant, and consequently, the Lakers.

The Lakers are so prominent that the "other" basketball team in their own city can hardly get a word in edgewise.

All year long, the Clippers have been the top team in town (in fact, they just completed their first-ever season sweep of the Lakers), but no one's talked about them since their perfect month of December (which the Miami Heat promptly erased from the minds of most NBA fans).

In the season's final 10 days, it's clear that the Lakers will continue to grab most of the headlines around the league as they toil away in the most compelling playoff race that remains:  the battle for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West.

They continue to prove that you don't have to be good to be the most talked-about commodity in your sport.