09 May 2008

How easy is it to be a Lakers fan?

Founded in 1944, the Minneapolis Lakers got off to a great start, winning five championships in six years from 1949-1954. Such Hall of Fame players as George Mikan and Jimm Pollard starred for the team during this time.

The Lakers moved to Los Angeles in 1960. Not much changed in regards to getting Hall of Fame talent. Elgin Baylor, Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain... the list goes on. The championship well they had enjoyed back east dried up, however, and L.A. was only able to go to the NBA Finals six times in the next ten years.

The cursed Boston Celtics and Bill Russell kept thwarting Wilt and Company.

Finally, a whole sixteen years after their last championship, the Lakers won in 1972.

But the 80's were really the glory years for L.A. They won it all in '80, '82, '85, '87, '88 and '90. Boy, those teams were good. Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy, Bob McAdoo, Michael Cooper, Byron Scott, A.C. Green... the list goes on.

If you were a kid in the 80's, the Lakers were the team to cheer for.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, and gradually, these Lakers greats retired or moved on, one at a time.

Thankfully, in 1996, the organization was able to pay a young Shaq to come to L.A. for a seven-year, $122 million contract. And then they were able to trade Vlade Divac for the rights to rookie Kobe Bryant in 1997.

It took a couple years, but once the organization was able to sign Hall of Fame coach Phil Jackson, the Kobe and Shaq Lakers won three consecutive championships from 2000 to 2002. Times were good.

But tragically, Shaq and Kobe couldn't get along, and Shaq ended up going to Miami to win a championship with Dwayne Wade, a moment that must have pained Lakers fans everywhere.

L.A. has not won a championship since then, but having "The Black Mamba" Kobe Bryant breaking records and being the class of the NBA must have soothed the souls of troubled middle-aged men wearing yellow Lakers jerseys everywhere.

But once again, things threatened to fall apart, as last summer, Kobe said he wanted to be traded. This move had a big chance to sink the franchise for a long, long time.

Thankfully, Lakers third-year player Andrew Bynum suddenly bloomed into the second coming of Wilt. Kobe quickly changed his story, and everyone was happy in Lakers-land again.

But the ol' Lakers-style good fortune really smiled on Los Angeles last Februrary, when ex-Lakers great Jerry West, now managing the Memphis Grizzlies, traded his star forward Pau Gasol to them at virtually no cost.

And now the Lakers look all the world like they're the favorites to win their fifteenth NBA championship this June.

Wow. Even during the down years, Lakers fans still had Kobe Bryant to cheer for. Any Hawks or Knicks fan would kill for that.

The Lakers are a team of short-term, relatively painless downs and long-lasting, extremely high ups.

It's easy to root for a team that always wins. That's why the Red Sox, Yankees, Spurs, Lakers, Red Wings, Celtics, Patriots and Colts lead their respective leagues in jersey and ticket sales.

But that's like choosing to only adopt children who are straight-A students, captain of the football team, head cheerleader, and never talk back.

But heaven forbid they flunk their chemistry test or take the car without asking. Then they're back on the street.

There's something very rewarding about supporting a team through bad times, as well as the good.

It's more akin to raising a child from birth, through the terrible twos and that time they set the curtains on fire to late nights worrying where they are and hoping they're not doing drugs.

Why do parents do it? They do it for the times their kid wins the spelling bee, for the time she gets an A on her science project. They do it for the day he graduates from college and she gets a great job.

I'd argue the bad times make the good ones that much sweeter.

That's what it is to be a fan, in my opinion. No one respects the guy wearing a newly-purchased Hawks jersey over the white shirt and tie on the front row of Celtics/Hawks Game 6 last week. But watching the die-hard New Orleans fan who has followed the team since the Charlotte days enjoy a playoff series win for the first time in decades brings a smile to your face.

It's not easy to watch the team you love stink. BYU football in 2003-2005 was not a good program. Quarterback John Beck played poorly at times, and losses came pretty frequently.

That said, I saw a lot of potential in Beck. Enough so that I defended him against the many BYU fans who were calling for his head.

And you know what? In 2006 he led the team to an 11-2 record, while posting huge numbers. After being drafted by the Miami Dolphins in the 2007 NFL draft, he looks to be the starter at quarterback this fall.

That is awesome.

So don't stop supporting your team just because things don't look good right now. Their fortune will turn around. Maybe not this season, and maybe not for ten seasons, but someday.

And then you'll be glad you stuck around.


Filbert Karo said...

I know! The Sonics will be good again someday. Maybe. And the Grizzlies. The Grizzlies are awesome.

Also, I'm going to use a little bit of this post, if it's ok. I want to talk about the Sonics and the Grizz.

Brandon said...

You can use a little bit of post, sure.

Filbert Karo said...

Ok, thanks