Why the Lakers Needed to Take That Damn Trophy Back to LA
Tinseltown’s favorite sports team finally won another NBA championship after a 10-year title drought. Lake Show is officially back on top. Say what you want about the legitimacy of winning one in this non-conventional bubble setting brought about by the pandemic. But having gotten the job done still means a ring on the finger of each of these Lakers and yet another banner that will hang from the rafters of Staples Center.
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It has been a dismal past decade for the Purple and Gold. Even before Kobe Bryant’s retirement, a lot of people had already written off the team mostly because of really bad front office decision-making, which left the franchise with lineups that couldn’t compete for a seat in the Playoffs. For a proud organization like the Lakers with such a rich winning tradition, it got pretty depressing being a fan. Two years ago, you could go watch a game for less than half the price it would cost now.
The author catches one of three Lakers games in Staples Center earlier this year
That all changed with Lebron James’ arrival in Hollywood last year. Expectations, as well as ticket prices, skyrocketed last season. Unfortunately, a groin injury that sidelined Lebron for 17 games, as well as missing chess pieces to go with The King, kept the Lakers from making it to the Playoffs yet again. Moves were made in the off-season to bring Lebron the help he needed. Most of the Lakers’ beloved young core had to be broken apart and traded away for the right supporting cast to build around their star.
Among others, the acquisition of seven-time All-Star big man Anthony Davis seemed like a step in the right direction. Another big change was the hiring of head coach Frank Vogel. Whether these were the right moves by GM Rob Pelinka was a question that only a 17th Larry O’Brien trophy (or absence thereof) could answer at the end of the season.
A Pinoy fan in LA
After celebrating the New Year in NYC, I flew to Los Angeles the next day to catch the last three of a five-game homestand, which the Lakers swept through. I watched a 123-113 win over the Pelicans, a block party by the Lakers’ big men resulting in a 106-99 victory against the Pistons, and, despite Lebron reportedly feeling under the weather that night, a 117-87 demolition job of the Knicks with the King finishing with 31 points.
Three Ws in five days. I flew back to New York the following day before returning to Manila later that week. The team was looking really good. All was well in La La Land until just a couple weeks later.
The author is a hardcore LA Lakers fan
You didn’t have to be a Lakers fan to wake up to the worst news on the morning of January 27 (Jan. 26 in the US). Kobe was gone. Even more heartbreaking was the fact that his young daughter had perished with him along with seven other lives in a tragic helicopter crash up in Calabasas.
Kobe is arguably the greatest Laker of all time. A lot of the veterans on this team fought unforgettable battles with him earlier in their careers while the younger ones on the squad all grew up dreaming to be like him someday. One of the most moving images I saw on TV during the days following his death was of Laker point guard Quinn Cook amongst the crowd gathered outside the arena, Kobe jersey in hand, in tears. Laker Nation had lost a legend and the team was undoubtedly in mourning.
The world’s pretty much gone to shit since then. A global pandemic broke out. George Floyd died at the hands, or knee, of the police. Countries who fought for their democracy for so long are now run by despots and bigots. So far it’s been written like a screenplay for a really bad apocalypse movie.
The Lakers needed to win
The world needed the Lakers to win this year. It would be the only way 2020 could redeem itself. Just one more championship to even the count with Boston for most NBA titles won by a franchise and man, do we hate those Celtics.
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The Lakers needed to win it for the history books. They needed to win it for the platform they fight so hard to have so their voices can be heard and names like Breonna Taylor remain in people’s consciousness. They needed to win one for Kobe Bean. Most of all, they needed that championship for fans like us who still continue to believe that things get better. We all need that Hollywood ending.