Andrew Rafner is a recently liberated fan and writer from Los Angeles. He owns two Sasha Vujacic jerseys and isn’t sorry about it.

This past Sunday night, I was able to be witness to a pretty big moment as far as the NBA goes — I got to be in the building as Dwight Howard took the court for the first time in perhaps the most vaulted and exalted position in the game, starting center for the Los Angeles Lakers.

At this point, I’m fairly sure we can agree that it would be wasted breath to remind you that this is a mantle that has been occupied by the some of the best big men to ever play the game. It’s true, Laker history will show you a veritable who’s who of legendary centers, both the ones you can think of off the top of your head. Your Mikans, Shaqs, Wilts and Kareems. But the record will also show some more esoteric entries, like Bob McAdoo, a former league MVP who joined the Lakers in the early-80s to play a key role on two championship teams, and Vlade Divac, the patient-zero for what would be a mega-influx of European players in the decades to come, not to mention the bargaining chip that landed the Lakers a mostly unknown superskinny high-schooler named after a variety of steak in the summer of 1996.

We all get it. Laker centers are cool and most of the time really good. Their newest addition, Dwight Howard, is unquestionably worthy of the acclaim: a six-time All-Star, three-time Defensive Player of the Year and lynchpin of a 2009 Eastern Conference Champion Orlando Magic team that was rounded out by the likes of Rafer Alston, Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu (to be fair, all playing out of their minds). Dwight Howard is an elite center. Yes, yes and yes. But that isn’t what any of this is about. This is about what wasn’t being talked about at Staples Center on Sunday night.

As Dwight Howard entered to a sea of cheers and adulation that moved him to the point of tears, not a soul in the gathered crowd of the 18,997 on hand mentioned Andrew Bynum. Not one No. 17 jersey in the stands. Not one person said they missed him and not one kid cried cause his old favorite was gone, as I did in 1998 in a Jack in the Box parking lot the night Eddie Jones was traded. And it was this whitewashing of Andrew Bynum and what he had once represented to the Los Angeles Lakers that struck me as totally weird, and not because I think Andrew Bynum is better than Dwight Howard in any measurable way and definitely not because I missed him, as previously published opinions will support.

It was weird because it seemed as if for the last seven years, I had to defend my opinion to Laker fans Internet-wide that Andrew Bynum had way more Elden Campbell in him than Shaquille O’Neal. As I thought about the collective selective amnesia that had ravaged Staples Center as Dwight Howard effortlessly scored 19 points and pulled down 12 rebounds, I settled on a disturbing truth that has existed for my entire existence as a fervent supporter of the Los Angeles Lakers.

And that is that the general fanbase of the Los Angeles Lakers is really fucking stupid.

I’ll say it again in an effort to be sure my opinion is fully understood: The general fanbase of the Los Angeles Lakers is really fucking stupid. Now, before you start closing browser windows and calling for my resignation as a denizen of the Greater Los Angeles area and for my father’s season tickets that he has held since 1982 to be vacated, let me explain myself. In my years as part of the Laker fan community, I have heard some awfully ridiculous things about players and the organization as a whole. From Andrew Bynum being “the future of the franchise” despite his inability to remain on the court due to injuries and a crippling case of shittitude to the notion that Shannon Brown was somehow heir apparent to Kobe Bryant simply because he had a couple incredible dunks where he jumped slightly higher than normal dunkers.

Then there were the numerous articles about how Phil Jackson was losing his edge as head coach and that he needed to be fired, first in 2007 after consecutive playoff ousters to the Phoenix Suns. And then again in 2008 after the Lakers lost to Boston after an improbable Finals run. And then shockingly, impossibly again after back-to-back NBA Championships in 2009 and 2010 and then being undercut by his own team’s dickishness in 2011, sending the greatest coach in NBA history into his ungentle goodnight while watching Andrew Bynum crosscheck JJ Barea into Fort Worth.

Laker fans even like to call seldom used guard Andrew Goudelock, a pretty nondescript second-round pick in 2011 who averaged 4 points in 10 minutes per last season, “Mini Mamba.” Yes, that Andrew Goudelock. A tiny, itty-bitty Kobe.

When the Lakers brought over 6-foot-9 Sun Yue from China, fresh off a tepid performance in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the huddled masses in LA exalted the lanky point guard from the Far East with comparisons to none other than Magic Johnson. After 10 regular season games, a rocky relationship with Chinese supermodel Gu Chen that was hallmarked by a mononucleosis scandal and a lot of time hanging out with Adam Morrison, Yue was gone, having barely made a whimper.

Similarly, when the Lakers dealt for Ramon Sessions last March while dumping folk hero Derek Fisher, the generally agreed upon position out of Lakerland was that this was the best point guard the Lakers had had under their employ since, wait for it, MAGIC FUCKING JOHNSON. Furthermore, Fisher, who’s penchant for big plays and history of maximizing a skill set rife with holes that had been a part of five Laker championships, was hot garbage. Not surprisingly, after three months of typically middling Ramon Sessions basketball, his option was declined and he was left to fade to obscurity in Charlotte, far away from the pathologically insane expectations Los Angeles Laker fans seem to throw around with little to no regard for reality or any modicum of basketball sense.

Laker fans remember when it’s convenient and forget almost always.

It is this is the kind of attitude that files in and out of Staples Center 41 nights a year. The attitude that posits that simply by virtue of wearing the Forum Blue and Gold that you have been bestowed some kind of seal of approval from the basketball gods. Laker fans tend to look through the most distorted of fan-biased lenses. Anyone in their uniform is the next fill-in-the-blank, and having to admit that they may not be is an admission that the Lakers are fallible and that someone, somewhere could possibly be better. To Laker fans — and to a small degree, the organization itself — this is the worst case scenario of anything ever.

And this is where Andrew Bynum comes back in. The cheers lavished upon Dwight Howard used to be for Bynum. For the last seven years, it was Bynum who was the predestined fifth head on that Laker Center Mount Rushmore. It was Bynum who was coddled and pandered to and the great hope of the state. And suddenly, now that a man truly worthy of his place on that mountain had arrived, Laker fans tried to bury their secret shame for having believed that if they built Andrew Bynum up high enough, maybe, just maybe he would reach their near unreachable expectations.

Their time defending and lionizing another fraud had reached it’s end, only to be buried in the annals with the others who had come before him — the once and future kings of Lakerland, faded and fated to become castaways and cutouts. The true savior was here now. The one finally deserving of the kind reverence and celebration Laker fans had casually and regularly accorded on those far less deserving had arrived only to hear the din of the crowd falsely shout as they had for the endless line of frauds that had come before.

Stay golden, D-Ho. Stay pure. These fans are a fickle lot that aim to rip your body apart and leave you pining for that one special and emotional night you took the court as a Laker for the first time.

Comments (42)

  1. *Slow Clap*

    Indeed, my friend.

  2. Laker-hate is totally appropriate but how is this different from the optimism felt in any other NBA city? Maybe it is less desperate because the Lakers win consistently but just listen to homer announcers across the league describing Jeremy Evans blocks or (a few years back) Gerald Green dunks, or read the breathless writers discussing their latest first round pick as “the next…” Hate on but fanbases always seem to have these expectations for prospects. The only difference is that the goals in Lakerland are championships and not making the playoffs.

  3. best LA Lakers critic i have read, not totally biased by my love for Celtics!
    Especially LOVE the F-bombs

    but seriously, great article

  4. I dont think there’s anything wrong with being insufferable in terms of fandom so long as you are aware of the fact that you’re insufferable. What makes LA sports fans so mindnumbing is how gleeful they are at reminding a non-LA fan that they are idiots.

    Anyway, this was awesome. And fickle Dwight deserves fickle LA. Everyone is enjoying the honeymoon now, but it wont last. With Dwight, it can’t.

  5. Might wanna do some fact checking regarding Sessions. The Lakers did not have a team option on him; he had a player option that HE decided to decline. The Lakers wanted him back. http://articles.latimes.com/2012/jun/19/sports/la-sp-lakers-ramon-sessions-20120620

    • He thought they were gonna trade him mid-season and made every move possible to show that they were serious about it ( Nash et al ). Probably just told his agent that he was as good as gone in good faith.

  6. By and large Andrew’s right here. I’m a 30+ year Laker fan – the hopes and expectations put on less-than-deserving players by fans is obnoxious at times. I’ve been a longtime proponent of dumping Bynum (if only for the fact that he couldn’t stay healthy).

    Laker fans, in many ways, have been trained to expect championships and hall-of-famers so it’s hard to blame them. The Laker organization is shrewd in bringing in talent so why wouldn’t they expect someone in a given position to perform like so many greats have in years past.

    Simply because other teams don’t have the same track record of greatness, and therefore lowered expectations, could definitely contribute to their more realistic fanbase. Hey, who really goes into the season with high hopes that the New Orleans Hornets are gonna take the league by storm and dominate their division?

  7. Where in Los Angeles do you live in? There are smart fuckin fans in LA too

    Make sure not to confuse “stupidity” for “loyalty”, or jokes!
    I always say the Lakers need to bring DJ Mbenga back in order to win.. I’m fuckin joking!

  8. Perfectly expressed.

  9. While there is a lot of truth to this, I tend to agree more with Radio Rahim above. I’ve had people stuff scrubs like Bargnani, DeRozen, Calderon, Ed Davis, Weems, and a lot more down my throat. Every franchise has unrealistic expectations for their 1st round picks. The raptors were pitching “Young Gunz” last season for gods sake!

    Anyways, great article and entertaining read. Love the F-Bombs too :)

  10. You mentioned it yourself, Kerby. The night was historic because of Howard’s debut. It was not in remembrance of Bynum’s many contributions. That will come on New Year’s during which time you will be reminded of Los Angeles’ respective fans who know their history.

  11. List of once and future Kings of Lakerland:

    * Vlade Divac
    * Ron Artest

  12. Says the owner of multiple Sasha Vujacic jerseys…

  13. Knicks fans are worse than Laker fans.

  14. Every team in every sport has idiots making up the majority of their fanbase. This is nothing unique to Los Angeles.

    And for the record, Kobe Bryant himself nicknamed Goudelock mini-mamba, not the fans.

    • >Every team in every sport has idiots making up the majority of their fanbase. This is nothing unique to Los Angeles.

      This is true, but for the Lakers it seems to be 90% dumb, 10% intelligent. For other franchises (especially terrible ones), the ratio is a bit more balanced.

      • I’d like to see you back that up with legitimate sources and scientific polling rather than pulling it out of your ass.

        • one of us one of us one of us one of us one of us

        • Because you backed up this statement – “Every team in every sport has idiots making up the majority of their fanbase” – with irrefutable evidence, right?

          Please.

  15. Yeah, but //revision

    “And that is that the general fanbase of the ______________ is really fucking stupid.”

    But still. Fun. And I don’t care about basketball, let alone the Lakers.

  16. I thought I was the only one that cried the night Eddie Jones was traded.

    Great article, man. The purest and truest form of criticism towards a team comes from its fans. At least the ones that have the balls and intelligence to do so, like yourself. Congrats again.

  17. Ramon Sessions declined his own option not the other way around. When writing a piece about how stupid a fan base is, its better to get your all your facts straight.

  18. Radio Rahim nailed it on the head. Everything else is just pure hate and/or jealousy. Upper echelon team, middling tier team or perennial cellar dweller… you hype YOUR team to show your excitement, loyalty and for some, championship aspirations. When you lose, it at least gives you hope for the future.

    Sure, it sounds like ignorance or pure stupidity to you, but to Kings / Bobcats fans as well as to Lakers / Heat fans alike… it’s OPTIMISM. Misguided or not, at least they’re being positive. The same unfortunately can’t be said about you.

  19. Being a season ticket holder, wouldn’t that make you part of the Laker fanbase? AND You own two Sasha Vujicic jerseys? Sasha freaking Vujicic?! Hahaha. Was that purchase made before or after you started calling him “The Machine”? Looks like you’re as fickle and as “really f*ing stupid” as you paint the Laker fanbase to be.

    I can’t tell who’s most at fault for this garbage… the “writer” of this awful rant or Trey & Skeets for allowing it to be published.

    • Sasha Vujacic home jersey was purchased in fall 2008, the road in spring 2010. Sasha is my favorite all-time Laker role player because he played at one million billion miles per hour and people hated him for it. As previously stated, I’m not sorry about any of it.

      • Sasha Vujacic is another player whom the majority of people outside the Lakers fan base would describe as a pretty nondescript second-round pick. That he managed to stay on the team 6yrs is a testament to the attention paid to Kobe on defense.

        How is the “hype” paid to Bynum, Goudlocke, Yi, etc by a “fickle bitch” Laker fan different from your appreciation of “The Machine”?

  20. The general fanbase of any large city is generally really fucking stupid. I don’t care if the author was a resident of LA, you can’t generalize such a large, incredibly diverse population of basketball fans into one statement. People who have no real experience of LA love to think all Laker fans are obnoxious because it is so easy to think Angelenos are all plastic, ignorant people. Admitting your hate for the Lakers is the easiest thing to do as a basketball fan, right next to hating the Miami Heat or bashing David Stern. What a garbage article, the author is probably from Orange or secretly a Clippers fan.

    • The author has lived in Los Angeles County most of his life and his father has been a Laker season ticket holder since 1982. His Bar Mitzvah was Laker-themed.

      I know what I am talking about.

    • Steps to forum commenting success:

      1. Make a statement generalizing entire groups of people.
      2. Proceed to blast author of article for doing this very thing in the following sentence.
      3. Finish with a baseless assumption about the type of person the author he is.

      Congratulations sir, you are a true Professional!

      • The little dig on the author was unnecessary but I get what he’s trying to say. I think he was just pointing out that it is fashionable to insult Laker fans because all the other fans do it all the time on message boards or forums. In classic Hipster fashion, the author is only begging for pageclicks by pointing out how “unique he is” within a horde of Laker fans and trying to provoke the largest fanbase in the NBA. Also, dropping the F bomb in every other sentence adds nothing to author’s rant.

  21. Being a Lakers fan, I understand your point. However, it is in the nature of all sports fans to act this way. I’ve been an Oakland Raiders fan for my entire life, and since 2003 we’ve been in the bottom half of the league. Every year, fans would say “wow, we really look improved this year! (Insert shitty player) was a great pickup!” before the team would lose 12 games.

    The only reason this seems more prevalent with Lakers fans is the fact that there are so many of them, and they’re very vocal about their team. Hell, I live in LA. I’ve heard Clippers fans who were guilty of the same thing.

    Sure, some Lakers fans have a sense of entitlement and lofty expectations for even the most minuscule of roster changes, but there are others who are just optimistic about the team they’ve supported all their lives. It’s in the nature of the sports fan to try to find ways to be happy with what you have – thus fans thinking Sessions was much more preferable to Fisher, despite what he had done for the team (and also, to a larger extent, arguing Bynum was a great center and they “didn’t need Dwight” to having an opposite stance when he left). This isn’t really a Lakers fan thing – it’s a sports fan thing.

    Like all sports teams, there are good Lakers fans and ridiculous ones. The difference is the ridiculous ones are much more vocal.

  22. Cool Story Bro.

  23. As a die hard Laker fan, I absolutely agree with all that is stated here. Indeed I am f*cking stupid. For those of us who try and proclaim, “Don’t lump me in with them, I was the one who stated such-and-such…” nope, f*cking stupid, like the rest of us.

    I, too, cried when Eddie Jones was traded. That man deserves a ring and a Hall of Fame entry. Of course, I’m f*cking stupid because I love the Lakers, so what do I know.

    I also never drank the Kobe-Kool-Aid because I believe that an education is far greater than entering the NBA as such a young age. The ego, attitude and experience you could gain from playing college ball can only improve your standings in the NBA. Look how it matured Kobe (rapist), Bynum (knucklehead), Garnett (misanthrope), etc.

    I heard a comparison of D-Ho’s “million dollar smile” to Magic. That feeling of having a Magic persona may be coming back to LA. I’m one of many f*cking stupid people here, so we may think that is true.

    We are also the same people that told Shaq, “You’ve lost all your LA privileges.”

  24. Forgot to mention, I also believe that we can win a championship this year even with a roster of semi-injured AARP members. Hope Fish comes back to reserve for Nash. I’m f*cking stupid.

  25. This article has the right point but the wrong perspective. All fanbases are like this; a lot of Warriors fans thought Monta Ellis was a top 20 player, I’m sure a lot of Bobcats fans think Kemba Walker is the next whatever.

    But it’s a clever, poetic kind of mistake that the author made; the real problem with LA fans is not in the way that they’re like other fans (stupidity), but the way they think that Lakers fans are somehow not like other fans. And that’s exactly the mistake the author made in writing this article, he thinks that all of the normal tropes of fandom are somehow unique to the Lakers.

    That said, the actual article is pretty good, it’s an interesting take on the Dwight story.

  26. love the hurt feelings of lakers fans in this thread.. kinda shows that the writer may be on to something lol

  27. hate to be like this, but the editor in me noticed this sentence:

    “It’s true, Laker history will show you a veritable who’s who of legendary centers, both the ones you can think of off the top of your head.”

    and wondered if you meant to write “both the ones you can think of off the top of your head, AND THOSE YOU CAN’T.” that is, unless you’re meaning to write that there are just two centers you can think of off the top of your head, which i find unlikely since that shaq/kareem/wilt triumverate is pretty even-keeled.

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