Last night, one team we watched during Rockets-Lakers will only go as far as its star will take them. The other was the Lakers, and boy, was that fun. We might’ve witnessed the birth of a new era, or we just were able to catch one of the few fun games this unit will play together. We have no idea, but boy, I can’t wait to find out.
Think of things you legitimately love. Not people or pets, obviously, that’s not quite the same thing. Think of books, of movies, TV series, whatever. You know what most those things have in common? You bought in early. Something caught you at the very beginning, made you invest on an emotional level and you grew alongside it.
Series especially (whether it be books, TV or movie), capture and nurture this kind of relationship. You invest years into characters. When those series end, you can’t help but feel as if there’s a hole you feel the need to fill as soon as you possibly can. For me (and millions of others), it was Harry Potter. Somehow, I found myself relating to a completely fictional, wand-wielding character from the very beginning and on throughout the series even if I’d never ridden a broomstick, let alone a thestral. Sports are no different. We might root for laundry at the macro level, but it’s the minutiae along the way that draws and keeps us in.
The Lakers haven’t exactly left its fan base needing for major moments to enjoy. Great players, great teams, exciting characters — you name it. All that greatness has something in common: A smaller beginning. For every Magic Johnson, there were a few Javaris Crittentons. For every Shaq, we endured our share of Travis Knights. Before we could get to Phil Jackson, we had to survive Del Harris. We can’t enjoy the first halves of those sentences fully without experiencing the second.
So, between “Showtime” and the three-peat, there was the scrappy collection of up-and-comers that defined the 90s.
Funny thing is: That group got me to fall in love with the Lakers. I threw goofy punches like Nick Van Exel would after a big three. I drove baseline and dunked on my Fisher Price basket a la Eddie Jones. Hell, I even managed an imitation of Elden Campbell’s weird running style that made it look as if he couldn’t turn his head. I cried actual tears when Anthony Peeler, Sedale Threatt, et al. were no longer Lakers. Point being: I loved everything about that team and didn’t care at all about their ability to win a championship. I might actually remember more about that group than those that won rings.
This Lakers team offers that same release. It’s the kind of group that can ignite a lifelong passion for the Lakers or reignite a flame that might’ve waned in recent years. We’re only a game in, but these kids are pretty easy to love.
They’re new. They’re fun. They make stupid mistakes. We have no idea what might be coming, but no matter what it might be, it’s about the journey. We’re here for what’s next, whether it’s D’Angelo Russell reminding everyone what pulses through his veins or throwing an ill-advised behind-the-back pass on a crucial possession. Some kid out there is awkwardly impersonating both while falling in love with this team.
It also makes no sense that I’d look back on an era of Lakers basketball in which they had minimal chances of winning a title as the era in which I fell in love with the franchise. But again, here we are. Does it make sense, then, that a single game might convince me this team has the capability to do the same for the next generation of Laker fan? Of course not. But that really wasn’t the point.
As much talk as there might be of returning the franchise to greatness, the sights should be set a little lower, but that doesn’t mean this isn’t just as important as the macro-level goal. You have to be good before you can be great, anyway. And if we do get to those levels of greatness, noting the milestones along the way should only draw you closer to the process itself.
Last weekend, my wife and I went to Harry Potter World for my 30th because of the relationship described above. It makes no sense seeing as it was my 30th, but here we are. Last night, we read the first chapter; watched the pilot episode. Let’s enjoy the present and, hopefully, grow alongside these young Lakers.
_Craig W says
Having started following the Lakers when they drafted Jerry West, I loved reading your post.
There have been a number of down times, even when we had Kareem and Kermit Washington, but the cycle does seem to always come back. The first cycle started when I was quite young. The present one may last beyond my lifetime – I hope not – but I am still here for the Lakers.
I know a lot of Lakers fans whose favorite team was that 4 all-star team – Nick, Eddie, Kobe and Shaq. As we all know, that team flamed out in spectacular fashion in the playoffs, but dammit if they didn’t make Lakers basketball worthy of our obsession again.
There’s something so enticing about a team with raw potential. The weight of expectations is almost non-existent. A win can be enjoyed because it’s unexpected. A loss can be enjoyed because it’s the process, not the result. The path they forge could be one of a thousand options, and we all are just here to enjoy the evolution.
Laker Old Timer says
Lakers have depth this season but there are lots of priorities for Luke. It starts with defense and ends with defending the lead in the last 5 minutes. There were so many games in the past that were lost in absence of defense and too much hotdogging basketball. What makes this team better, there is no star and everyone could contribute and Luke has plenty of marbles to play if Plan A does not pan out. Offense was good especially with Mozgov using his height and p & r easy dunk. I think it is premature to turn the leadership of this team to the millennials. It takes time to grown with the NBA game and time to graduate from those College hoop hotdogging. I think Deng and Metta should as leaders as they gradually remove the guidance as the season matures.
As enthusiastic Laker fans, we expect our players to excel in every season. We expect them to have pride on the uniform they wear. The owners may not be appealing but the team has certain standards to maintain compared to other favored teams.
_ Robert _ says
Nice – love the history.The Lakers have had very few down cycles. As you know – we made the Finals 31 times in
our first 62 years of existence, leading up to our current 6 year hiatus from
the Finals.Kermit and Kareem played
about 80 games together over 2 seasons, making the playoffs once.The year they missed it, we had a team that
featured KAJ(in his complete prime),
Gail Goodrich, Lucius Allen, Cazzie Russell, and Kermit(and Stu Lantz),and somehow we missed the playoffs.Jerry West was a great player and is the
best executive of all time, but he was about as good of a coach as Magic
Johnson. West and Del Harris(sorry 90’s
fans but he is my least fav of all time) are the only Laker coaches in history
to coach for more than 2 years with the team, and never make the Finals
_ Robert _ says
Correction – giving Jerry credit for Sharman’s screw
up.However the more than 2 years
without a Finals appearance is unique to Jerry and Del.Sharman did get the title for us in 72.
I love the 90s Lakers and it brings back good memories. But I don’t really see the parallel to this team, other than they both weren’t in title contention. The 90s Lakers weren’t world champions, but they still only missed the playoffs once (and got Eddie Jones for it). This team is different, and this is hopefully going to be a different kind of fun. I haven’t been this excited for a while, and I am really hoping to see a huge jump from 17 wins (Divac, Ceballos, and Nick the Quick were always at least respectable).
On a side note, I am curious what other people think about:
1. Why didn’t Mozgov get more minutes? He really played well and we seemed to have a drop off when he went out.
2. Am I the only one worried about what I have seen from Deng so far? I was expecting a lot more and thought his contract was a good one. From preseason to game 1, I am not so sure.
Yeah the 90’s Lakers weren’t terrible. It was actually quite the feat to remain that good. The Lakers and Celtics were both in their primes during the 80’s. The Lakers remained relevant during the 90’s while the Celtics collapsed. The last few years, have made me appreciate how remarkable the 90’s actually were.
_ Robert _ says
Vasheed notaaron Not that remarkable : ) The 90’s should have been a lot better. In the beginning of the decade we still had Magic (MVP in 1990) and Worthy and during the last 3 years we had Shaq and Kobe. Shaq was in his beastly prime and he made the Finals 6 times during the first 14 years of his career. Somehow – right in the midst of that run – he played for Del for 3 years and had marginal team success. Magic would have been one of the first 2 guys picked on the playground during 1990 + 1991 and Shaq would have been literally the first guy picked in 97, 98, and 99. Throw in Worthy and Kobe and the results from the decade should have been better (1 Finals appearance for the entire decade).
We should be 2-0 after tonight. Utah is hobbled. Would be a nice start to the LW era – remember – he will be in the COTY convo – you heard it here first : )