Los Angeles Lakers: No Three-Peat
Enjoy the celebration, Ron, you'll be home next June.
That's right, Laker Nation, your team will not win next year's NBA Finals.
"That's what they said last year," you'll say.
"Yeah, and the year before that, too," your friend will proclaim.
"And we could've won against Boston the year before that," another fan will say with absolute conviction.
True, the Lakers are the two-time defending NBA champions. It's also true that they could have won against the Boston Celtics in the 2008 NBA Finals, Pau Gasol's first season with the club. Had they pulled out the home victory in Game Four, they could have sent the series back to Boston with a 3-2 lead. They didn't, of course, but the rest is history.
With this past season's Finals concluded, the loss to the Celtics has been avenged. Kobe and company even got their revenge against the Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference Finals after being eliminated in the first round for two straight years.
The Lakers enjoyed a renaissance in the Playoffs after finishing the regular season's last two months barely above .500 with a 12-10 record. In April, L.A.'s 3-4 record, didn't look good compared to Orlando's seven wins with one loss.
Even in the first round the Lakers seemed to struggle against the Oklahoma City Thunder. That series proved to be the turning point for the Lakers. Prior to Game Five, media outlets showed video of Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant discussing the tied series. Something had changed in the two stars of the franchise. Something was very different.
That, folks, was when the champion came out. Despite dropping five more games in the post-season, the Lakers gutted it out. They persevered. They conquered.
Fans all over the country rejoiced at the site.
Oh, and fans all over the country also felt absolutely disgusted. You know the ones, the Kobe-haters. The fans who call the team "Fakers" among other things.
Are they on to something?
If the Miami Heat have anything to say about it, on the court, the Lakers will meet their match next season. The Web is full of articles predicting the outcome of a Heat-Lakers Finals. Position-by-position comparisons are being made, probably as you read this, and Wade, James, and Bosh are winning.
The truth is you still have to beat the champion to be the champion and there's no guarantee the "Three Amigos de Miami" will even represent the East.
It's a little premature to crown any team as the champions of the 2011 season, but if there's a favorite, it is the Los Angeles Lakers.
While you may have thought this article was about why the Lakers won't repeat (again), you're actually wrong. This article is about how asinine it is to think any team stands a chance against the one thing that has made the Lakers champions two years straight.
All of your arguments are falling upon deaf ears in LakerLand because the Lakers, and their fans, know something you don't.
"Defense wins championships."
Okay, you know that, but perhaps there's more to it than a saying.
"Determination wins championships."
That's right. It's not defense in the wars of attrition we see each post-season, it's determination. The Lakers, after falling to the Celtics three Finals ago, have proved to be the most determined team in the league.
When Kevin Durant and his Thunder tried to drown out the chorus of the Lakers will, they failed.
When Los Angeles headed into the impenetrable fortress in Salt Lake, they torched it.
When they faced the true-sounding words of Amar'e Stoudemire in the Western Conference Finals, they all channeled Lamar Odom's frustration and feeling of disrespect. When Nash "guaranteed" a win in Game Six, the Lakers painted "ORNG" purple.
After an exhausting series with the Boston Celtics left Kobe Bryant running on fumes in Game Seven, the Lakers carried their leader off the floor with the pride of another title draped around him.
Much like their fans, the Lakers have a sense of entitlement, brought about by a tradition of winning. They have expectations placed on them every year that few athletes could handle the pressure of bearing. When a fan supports a team other than the Lakers, they use Nietzsche's philosophy to turn the tables and see the fan, and his or her team, as an oppressor and hater.
While this attitude is hated, it's the same attitude that has led this incarnation of the Lakers to two straight titles and it's the same attitude that will lead them to the Finals next year where they will defeat whatever team comes from the East.
You can hate them for their colors, their players, their attitudes and, quite frankly, that stupid picture of Ron Artest, but with each thing you hate and each comment you make, you'll have a part in creating their success because you're feeding the fire that burns until they're the last team standing.
Ron, enjoy it now and look forward to it next season, just, please, for the love of all things Holy, wear a different hat.
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