As longtime readers know, I’m a Spurs fan living in Los Angeles, and I’m a former Laker fan. As a result, I had first-hand the evolution of the rivalry between Tottenham and the Lakers. The decade 2000-2010, while I was a fan of both teams, was the best of times. One of my team or the other was in the finals almost every year and often won them all.
Things changed around 2012, when the Lakers switched gears and became a one-year mercenary team. After I attended the opening night, I wrote the following:
During the first quarter, a Laker man in a Laker jersey passed to another Laker man in a Laker jersey, who dunked. While there was a lot of celebration at Staples Center, there was probably a lot of confusion. Who was the man who dipped? For the first time in decades (if any), a Laker guy scored in a match and I had no idea who he was. We later found out it was a cool fellow named Xavier Henry, a Kansas U-grad, who was in the Pelicans last year (formerly Hornets).
And Xavier (No. 7 for future reference) was three times as famous and familiar as another Laker man named Shawnee Williams – who started out strong forward. Where did Shawnee play last year? Good question. The answer, as far as I can tell: No place in the NBA. And now he starts “My Team”. And there’s another guy named Johnson I wouldn’t know if he was sitting in my office. This guy named Johnson was wearing a Laker shirt. One person I have known is Chris Kaman. He may have been a perfectly nice guy, certainly a competent albeit disinterested basketball player – and now he’s another guy in my ‘team’ uniform. Finally, a guy named Nick Young, he shot every time he touched, just as he did with the 76ers last year, and the USC, when he played there. He is also now on “My Team”.
After that match, I could no longer be a Laker fan. Good timing because the team that season was bad and so were the Lakers that followed. Meanwhile, Spurs were in the process of perfecting the beautiful game, which led to winning the Redemption Finals in 2014.
Later, I wrote an article about the death of the classic Tottenham rivalry – the Lakers because the teams are no longer on the same level. Unfortunately, when LeBron James joined the Lakers, it coincided with the fall of Spurs from the competition. As a result, the rivalry remained lopsided, but for a different reason.
All this led to last summer, when the Lakers chose to become a team of mercenaries once again. This led to the following exchange with my friend Mike, a devout Laker fan for life. Mike is hopelessly optimistic, like many Lakers fans. This exchange occurred shortly after the Lakers traded for Russell Westbrook, a trade that would live in disgrace.
me: “If LeBron and/or M.
Mike: “There are so many great stories about this new assembled group of Lakers. Russell, Ariza, coming home. Could Ross become his best under LeBron? Ariza is doing enough to help win a second chip with the Lakers? Will THT take (Local) A big step to become such a big part of our success? Does Melo have anything left to be a McAdoo bench contributor and get that slide caption? Will AD stay healthy and remind everyone why he’s the best two-way player in the league? Can he Besmore, Ellington, Monk, Noun played the roles necessary to give us some explosive depth?
“I say yes! Also, we have some interesting guys in twosome deals that might provide some unexpected punches.
“I can’t wait to see the Lakers go to the Finals!! Go Lakers!!!”
Later that week, an old friend Tony Join in:
“I was looking at the team that the Lakers formed, and I can’t believe I’m saying this but I think I agree with Mike. I think the Lakers have a chance to be very good. In fact, I think they will play the net in the finals.”
It all made last week so nice. Spoiler alert: The Lakers will not be in the Finals.
I suspect no one but me predicted that the Lakers and Tottenham would renew their rivalry again, but this time at the bottom of the playoffs, not at the top. And I was one of the few who expected that this Lakers team, chosen by Mike and so many others for the Finals, would instead be an outsider looking inside. Even better, while the Lakers season is winding down, they’ll be out looking at Play-In games starting Tuesday, and the Lakers will be looking straight at the silver and the black.
I probably shouldn’t be sending this post to Mike and Tony.