I Love L.A. – #1 The Los Angeles Lakers

 

One of my earliest memories as a sports fan was turning to the news and literally watching the Kings leave town on their way to Sacramento.  I had my Chiefs and Royals, but I was an NBA free agent.  Like so many other black folks of the early 80s though, it didn’t take long at all to find a team (and player) I naturally gravitated toward…

The first A I ever got in school, ever, was writing a book report on one of my heroes.  And that hero was Magic Johnson.  He was the centerpiece of the Showtime Lakers, he was a great player and he always had a smile for the camera.  My first memory of yelling at the TV in celebration was Magic’s baby hook over that punk Larry Bird and those damn Boston Celtics.  When I wasn’t practicing my moonwalk, I was down at the playground with my friends throwing weak ass behind the back passes.  Even today, whenever I hear Hall & Oates’ “One on One” I think of Magic running the break and throwing a no look to Big Game James.  I’m still debating how I feel about these pictures seeing the light of day at some point, but one of my best Christmas presents ever (at the time) was a hideous varsity jacket style purple and gold Magic Johnson sweater.  If you would have told me at that age that the hands of Fate would not only guide me to this city, but that I would see Magic on a fairly regular basis and even get to exchange pleasantries with him, I probably would have been the first 8 year old to die from cardiac arrest.  When he retired because of HIV, I was devastated as you can imagine.  But I kept following the team.  Even through the Nick Van Exel/Sedale Threatt/Cedric Ceballos years, the Lakers were still my team.  There has only been one time I openly rooted against them…

My second year out here was 2001, the year the Sixers made the Finals.  Magic is the player I grew up idolizing, but Iverson is my favorite player of my generation.   Initially I wasn’t looking for trouble when I wore my Iverson jersey in the week leading up to the Finals.  But boy you want to talk about hearing some noise!  Everywhere I went that week, ‘Sweep, Sweep, Sweep!’  And I knew the Sixers weren’t winning the Finals, but I wanted my boy to at least take one game.  The Lakers had won 19 in a row to that point; for those of you who hate the current version of the team, right now is NOTHING compared to the arrogance of those days trust me.  Iverson’s 48 that night probably put him in the Hall of Fame and I was probably the only cat in L.A. cheering; seeing Iverson with his chest out with a humbled Byron Allen in the background is still one of my top 5 sports fan moments ever. 

(And that wasn’t a joke, it’s at the 6:25 mark of this clip of the broadcast from that night:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qKjmo3oiCd8)

That personal moment aside though, the Lakers represent everything people either love or hate about L.A.  They’re glamorous, star driven, and (even an objective sports fan has to admit) the owner wants to win championships.  I’ve heard stories of course, but to this point I’ve never crossed paths with Mr. Bryant.  To watch him now, where he realizes his best individual days are probably behind him, but he also realizes another ring (or two) puts him undeniably into The Conversation, I have to admit it’s fun to watch.  We’ll see how Tiger plays it, but once Kobe just said (essentially) “I’m a hyper-competitive basketball nerd and the more I get away from that, the less true to myself I’m being,” the better things have turned out for him.  And when Kobe’s time has come and gone, I have little doubt the Lakers will trade, draft or sign as a free agent another of the top 5 players in the Association at that time.  That’s just what the Lakers do.

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