I'm a Self-Loathing Los Angeles Lakers Fan
I'm a walking heresy. I was born in Randolph, Massachusetts, a few miles south of Boston. I'm a die hard Boston fan who discriminates against Yankees fans to the point that I have to actively avoid them when drunk to keep from getting belligerent. I eat sleep and die Red Sox, Patriots, and Bruins.
But I'm a Lakers fan. And for no good reason. I'm ashamed of it sometimes, and my friends throw out my normally more informed arguments about basketball by pointing out how I openly turn on my city for this one sport.
I've gone through Bill Simmon's article about reasons why you can be a fan of a team from a different city, trying to pigeon hole myself into some excuse. It's pointless. Around the time of my parents divorce, I just became a Lakers fan. And not in a passing way, but in a shove it in your face way.
It doesn't take much for me to get cocky about sports. The inferiority complex of being raised a Boston fan through the Yankees' three World Series, watching Drew Bledsoe lose in the Super Bowl, and a parade for Ray when he won a Stanley Cup for a different city drove home that my teams weren't supposed to be good, and when they were good, you jumped on it.
Add to this that my family transplanted from Boston to Tampa, where rich white kids buy hats of whatever team just won a title, and you might as well have put me in sports hell.
So maybe it's the hypercritical nature of Boston sports that lets me look at the Lakers differently than other LA fans. LA is laid back to the extreme. They're the capitol of revisionist history.
The Magic Era is thrown around like it's the greatest of all time until you remember they beat Bird head-to-head once and got creamed the rest. The Logo practically quit before he finally won a title in 71-72. 12 years with the Lakers before he won a title!
It's Hollywood, and once the scoreboard changes, LA fans perception of what happened morphs into Best Picture of the Year. Robert Downey Jr is Iron Man AND Sherlock Holmes now. This city does nothing but forget the bad and brag about the good.
Not me though. When Yao went down with a foot injury I would smirk and rip on my friend Mitch from Houston about genetic incompatibility. But when I went to a sports bar for playoff games, I made sure not to screw with the Celtics fans there.
The guy wearing a Spurs hat was six inches shorter than me and had a hair line retreating faster than the French, and I didn't point out to him the team that beat his was getting steamrolled by the George Karl Supernovas.
Hell, I even knew not to go after the Suns fan. The losses to those teams were still vivid in my mind, and you didn't throw punches at them when they had already knocked you out plenty of times before.
So when I read columns or blog posts about how Kobe has retaken the greatest player ever title, or how he changed his play to quarterback this team to a title, I'm embarrassed that I'm wearing a Lakers hat while reading them. It's as though we've forgotten how Pierce's size stopped the Unstoppable Nike puppet.
Or how Kobe's need to take over games cost us a buzz beater against the 76ers in the regular season, a game that gave me Finals flashbacks and made me nearly write off our chances til KG's knee went Jenga on the Celtics. Or how in Game Three Kobe went to the basket looking for a GM bailout call rather than pass to an of the three open players.
We have plenty of reason to brag. And we have plenty of reason to brag about Kobe. The guy averaged 30+ points after playing the max number of games two seasons in a row, with a destroyed finger, and won a gold medal in between.
The only other player who played as much was also a Laker, Gasol. Kobe's passed the number of games where NBA players stats and careers start to resemble a car after 100,000 miles. Kobe's consistency despite everything, all the factors working against him should and does baffle those in the NBA.
But we didn't win because he put his bottom teeth in front of his upper ones, though I am adopting that into my daily life. We won because Ariza's defense on Hedo in Games One and Two was a sight to see. We won because Phil got Odom's insane amount of talent to play at a moderate level of intensity just long enough to win.
We won because Ron Jeremy was the guy calling the shots on the other bench. And we won because Dwight Howard's offense was so bad, Mbenga was still shutting him down when Odom, Gasol, and Bynum were in foul trouble.
I'm not saying I wasn't dancing around my house taunting my mom and brother, both Celtic fans, last Sunday. But I'm holding off on the hyperbole. It takes a lot of luck to win a title. The pieces need to fall into place just right, and at the right time. We won. We dismantled the Magic. We would have dismantled King James too.
But let's give credit to the whole team. Kobe didn't do anything to take away from how much we should respect him in the spectrum of active players. He added to it. But he didn't leap frog LeBron. He can't get to the basket like a healthy Wade can. He still wants to dominate games more than he wants to win them sometimes.
Lets remember this team for Kobe's consistency, Ariza's emergence at the best, and if he goes in free agency the worst, possible time, for Shannon Brown's best BJ Armstrong impersonation, for Odom's rebounding and god awful close outs on Rashard Lewis, and for Ron Jeremy understanding his players' psyche less than most sports fans and columnists.
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