If you ask Pau Gasol about the events that followed the Los Anegels Lakers’ Game Six Loss to the Boston Celtics (in Boston) in the 2008 NBA Finals—I’m sure he would say that he remembers it well. In fact, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that June 17, 2008 was a night he will never forget.
After heading through the tunnel and onto the team bus Gasol experienced something that he’s kept with him for the last two years. He experienced humiliation, disappointment, taunting, and having rocks hurled at him from crazed Boston fans outside of The Garden. It was a life changing incident for the Lakers.
I think many of the hardcore Boston fans that attended that game—and were involved in the altercation following the contest—could use a nice hard lesson in humility and sportsmanship. Soon enough however, they will pay the price—and so will the Boston Celtics.
In this case, the men at gates are Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol. And you can guarantee they will collect.
What Goes Around Comes Around
Gasol and the Lakers are going to use that moment, sitting on the bus while being berated by crowds of Green, as a point of motivation. It will be the driving force behind their domination on the court.
“It was painful,” said Gasol. “It is a feeling that I want to keep in mind for every single minute that I’m out there playing them.”
When men are wronged the likelihood of revenge is a common occurrence. Bryant and Gasol were humiliated on that bus, they haven’t forgotten that, and they will do whatever it takes to punish Boston fans in the form of winning consecutive NBA titles—and by plowing through the Celtics in the process.
And what is the direct cause of Bryant and Gasol’s personal connection (and outright drive) to win this series? When the Celtics are heading into the tunnel after a Game Five loss at the hands of a vengeful Laker squad, they can thank the jolly fans of Boston for that. The way they behaved was nothing short of pretentious and a pompous display of post-game celebration.
Not to group all Boston fans together, but generally the bean-town buffs that attend games are often the most diehard and therefore are a solid representation of the fans’ culture as a whole.
A Moment of Clarity
Now I’m certainly not saying that Boston fans are the only group of savage spectators who have behaved this way following a monumental win for their team—but let this be a lesson to all fans from every city and every team.
Professional athletes are people too. They bleed just like everyone else. And when someone gets the best of them, they aren’t quick to forget.
The purpose of this article is not to take a jab at the city of Boston or its sports fans and culture. Heck, I can’t even say that I wouldn’t do the same thing in the same position (although I would never throw objects at people, I stopped doing that when I turned eight—and I’ve learned that verbal abuse can be much more effective).
The point I’m trying to make here is that Boston fans have unilaterally given the Lakers a competitive advantage. The Lakers are playing for something more than glory in this series—they’re playing for revenge.
Professional athletes, and especially basketball players, are more inclined to raise their levels of performance when the opportunity to best a former foe (and especially one who has wronged them) arises.
I say basketball players especially because the game thrives and maintains its roots in the street, on the block, on the playground, in the gym, with just bodies, ball, and a rim. It also helps that basketball players play on the smallest field of any sport and therefore within the closest vicinity of each other—and in so forth fostering an environment for aggressiveness, trash talk, and the opportunity to directly best an opponent, and then rub it their face.
Anyways, the bottom line is that if the Lakers win this series, the Celtics can thank the fans of Boston for driving certain Laker players to a point of reckoning. That definitely gives a team an edge when its players are performing on a personal and intense level.
Many of the Lakers probably hate the city of Boston, and you really can’t blame them. The great Bill Russell also hates the city of Boston, but more on that in a minute.
I’ll go ahead and say it: Kobe Bryant is flippin’ pissed off.
Pau Gasol is pissed off.
Lamar Odom is pissed off.
Phil Jackson is meditating, and he’s still pissed!
And this is a huge advantage for Los Angeles. Professional athletes can do amazing things when their potential is pushed to the limit. And these guys are going to win with a vengeance—they will have their victory.
On that night in 2008, Boston fans should have expressed a little more modesty towards a tired, battered, and beaten Lakers squad, or at the very least have the decency to restrain from hurling rocks and litter at the team bus. And that’s the point—Boston had won an NBA Championship and their fans still acted like hooligans.
Again, this isn’t a personal jab at Boston or its population, or even at the Celtics. I’ll be the first to admit that the same situation could just has easily have happened in Los Angeles.
This should be a lesson to all fans—what goes around, comes around
Let me make my point a little more clear about how fans can ruin the game for their teams and players alike.
The Legend of Bill Russell
Bill Russell is one of the most decorated Boston Celtics of all time (next to Larry Bird). He’s also one of the greatest basketball players of all time. He led Bean-town to an insane 11 NBA Championships and five MVPs (during only a 13 year career).
How do you think Russell feels about the city that helped foster him into basketball glory?
For many years Bill Russell hated the city of Boston. He endured years of racial prejudice even in the city that relished his dominance on the court. Russell has been known to describe Bean-town as a “flea market of racism.” He even went as far as saying that he wanted his jersey to be retired in an empty Boston Garden (just to spite Boston and its fans). It was only until recently that he set aside his reservations and has since reconciled with the city.
What does that say about Bean-town fans? Nothing that hasn’t already been said about a myriad of other classless fans from a plethora of cities.
Seeing as how Boston isn’t the only culprit, what does that say about sports fans in general?
It says a few things that we as sports fans have known forever:
Professional athletes sometimes deserve all the heat they get for being on a national stage—it comes with the territory and is a byproduct of how much money they make.
And sports fans are ruthless, plain and simple.
From the point of view of the average fan, interaction with a professional athlete is something that seems unattainable. Spectators often feel that barrier between audience and athlete; and, in that respect, fans can say things to players from the perspective that it doesn’t affect them (the athletes). But it does, it really does.
The Lakers are going to play this series on a personal level. They have a grudge against the entire city of Boston, not just the players. They’re going to make the Celtics and the fans pay for what they experienced on the team bus that night at the TD Garden two years ago.
An athlete with a grudge is a force to be reckoned with on the court. And Kobe Bryant, Lamar Odom, and Pau Gasol are going to prove it in the Finals.
Thanks Boston fans, for giving LA the motivation it needs to crush your Celtics.