As a lifelong Lakers fan, nothing pleases me more than when I see our team on that make-shift stage with the Larry O'Brien Trophy, hoisted by our MVP, whether it's Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy, Shaquille O'Neal or Kobe Bryant and owner Jerry Buss up on the podium doing his interview with a huge grin on his face and thanking us, the fans, for our support.
That said, there are few thrills more disconcerting in life than seeing a Lakers Parade travel down Figueroa Street, a celebration purely based on the love of the team and the love of the players.
The parade itself is not much of a marvel; not in the town used to the annual Rose Parade on New Year's Day. And yet, a Lakers Championship Parade is infinitely more desired, more cherished, and more fulfilling.
Though many of us see our hero Lakers up much closer in games at the Staples Center, the euphoria of sharing our heroes with the have-nots that can only afford to watch the games on Channel 9 makes the whole experience a wonderful community affair.
For perhaps this is the only time they have the chance to see our heroes in person, rather than on the small screen, unless they're lucky enough to valet park their car or serve them when they stop by Pinkberry.
It is perhaps the rarity of actually ever seeing one of the Lakers in person despite following them year-round on television, on the Internet, in the LA Times, in magazines, and on blogs, that makes the championship parade such a compelling event.
What else can motivate hundreds of thousands of people to take the day off work or play hooky from summer school to line up for hours in the hot Los Angeles verano sun to get a glimpse of their heroes from a distance for just a few quick minutes?
Now when considering the Lakers Championship Parade is that scrumptious, luscious, delectable, mouthwatering cherry on top of that wonderfully opulent, decadent sundae that is the NBA Championship—here's three things that Lakers must do to get there again.
Us longtime Lakers faithful know how easy our championship hopes can be decimated by an ill-timed injury. We need to look no further than the 1989 NBA Finals when we suffered not one, but two, devastating injuries to our starters, both hamstring-related, first to Byron Scott and then to Magic Johnson.
The Lakers need to manage the minutes of our starters effectively throughout the playoffs, making sure they do not overexert themselves and saving the key players for when they are needed in close games. Not over-doing it in practices is another key, as Scott's injury was the direct result of former coach Pat Riley's brutal workouts.
An experienced championship team, our Lakers should already understand the importance of keeping their composure, especially under heavy and seemingly unrelenting pressure.
A few lost games, especially at home, could easily be the catalyst for an irreversible downward spiral. For inspiration, they need to look no further than their own Kobe Bryant and his first championship team, the 1999-2000 Lakers.
Going into Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals at home, the Lakers were blitzed by the determined Portland Trail Blazers lead by Scottie Pippen and Rasheed Wallace that took a 15 point lead in the fourth quarter. Despite the mounting odds, Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal, along with Brian Shaw, powered a 15-0 run to even things up, and went on to win the game and the series on the way to the Lakers' first NBA Championship since the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson-era.
This isn't a mantra that you often see professional sports coaches instill in their teams. Rather, this is something you usually hear in Little League, stressing the importance of enjoying the game and placing less emphasis on winning or losing. But we need to look no further than the 2004 NBA Finals to see just how important it is for our Lakers to enjoy themselves to win it all.
The 2003-04 season was the year Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant were joined by two other then-future Hall of Famers, Karl Malone and Gary Payton. While both had stellar careers, neither of them had won rings, and there were overwhelming expectations that this team would bring these stars their first and the Lakers their 15th NBA title.
However, the long-simmering feud between O'Neal and Bryant, Bryant's sexual assault case, and Payton's issues with coach Phil Jackson and the triangle offense, brought discord to the team which they could not overcome, and they lost to the less talented and overwhelming underdog Detroit Pistons four games to one in the NBA Finals.
While the Lakers Championship Parade is the final climax of a wonderful championship season, like many things in life, much of the fun is not in arriving at the destination, but in the journey getting there.
Witnessing a Lakers championship odyssey is perhaps the most fulfilling experience to be had by a Lakers fan.
And similar to their quest for another NBA title, for the most rewarding Lakers fan experience, we too should heed to these three mantras as we journey through the post-season with our champion heroes, the Los Angeles Lakers.
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