I’ve spent the last two years hating the Heat and now I should loathe the Lakers. The only problem is that I absolutely love the Lakers.
I have loved the Lakers since Chick Hearn called the jello jiggly, since Fletch made through the legs lay-ups, since Magic Johnson’s mythological forum club orgies with the Laker girls, Arsenio, and Eddie Murphy. I have suffered through the Smush Parker and Sedale Threatt eras and rejoiced while doing the Madsen mash. I have never subscribed to the theory of liberated fandom because no Lakers fan has ever subscribed to the theory of liberated fandom. You don’t need to abandon your squad for the first pretty fast break when all you do is win.
If the Miami Heat weren’t obviously the DJ Khaled of NBA franchises (obnoxious, garish and propelled by a deal with the devil), the Lakers would be the next logical candidate. Their acquisition of Dwight Howard was less surprise than eventuality. Los Angeles is more gravitational vortex than metropolis — should you possess any trace of narcissism, you will wind up with a studio apartment in Studio City faster than you can say Vivid Video. But All-NBA centers are built to buck the odds. They carry girls on shoulders at the Playboy mansion and star in straight-to-DVD films. On closer inspection, things may be closer than they appear.
I admire achievement, but I am not obligated to applaud success. Achievement is the exceeding of expectations. But even if the Lakers sweep the playoffs, it will feel as though they obtained the Larry O’Brien trophy through an NBA Live cheat code. It is plastic surgery, a two-year fix before they have to re-up for some rare German silicone (Kobe can help). It feels like they’re the NBA equivalent of kids who played “Duck Hunt” with the gun three inches from the screen.
Of course, the Lakers have played this game before. Jerry Buss has spent half of his life at well drink casinos in Gardena. He understands the emotional politics of poker and the power of leverage. The Magic never will. No one ever believes them when they’re bluffing. Nor can I mourn for Orlando. Had they not tried to dump Jason Richardson’s contract, there’s a reasonable chance they could’ve acquired Pau Gasol and Bynum. Instead, the franchise revealed the depth of its abandonment issues. They freaked out that Bynum would bail just like the last hot guy and the one before that and got stuck with a few protected draft picks and some hot cheetos and takis.