I have a history with the Los Angeles Lakers. Being a San Antonio fan, I remember new Lakers coach Phil Jackson saying the Spurs’ first championship had an asterisk because of the lockout season. I remember Kobe Bryant going for 45 points and 10 rebounds in game 1 of the Western Conference Finals in 2001 (9 dunks on Duncan and Robinson!). The 0.4 second debacle came out with some meds and hospitalization, and thank God I was dating someone in 2008 when Fisher fouled Barry.
But in my older age I think I’m getting soft. I’ve found that despite his backstabbing, team-deriding, jaw-protruding ways, I’ve found myself cheering for Kobe and the Lakers.
Not sure when it happened, although I have some theories. Maybe the signing of Mike D’Antoni over Phil Jackson. I’ve always thought he was a good coach, and how can you not feel bad for what Duncan did to his career with this shot (including the priceless reaction at the 2:20 mark).
Maybe when Kobe started using Twitter. Don’t get me wrong, the endless #Counton tweets were ridiculous, but was there anything more entertaining than watching Jeff Van Gundy and Mike Breen comment on what Kobe was tweeting during the first game of the playoffs, and watching D’Antoni not only have to answer to the media, but also to Kobe’s tweets? Also the idea of him watching from a hospital room while the Lakers were losing must have been a very Gerry Bertier Remember-the-Titans-like moment.
Or maybe it was this shot.
I don’t know what happened that day, but as I watched Westbrook celebrate, my Laker hate faded. Although my allegiance had been to the Thunder, my heart felt like saying, “Know your role, son.” Death, taxes, and an important Lakers-Spurs playoff series were the sureties in life. But that shot seemed to signal in a changing of the guard, a time where the Lakers would no longer be contenders, followed quickly by the Spurs. And although Tim Duncan, unlike Jordan, actually seems to have a game that can have him play till he’s 50, one day he will hang it up and we’ll all wonder where those 20 years went.
So while the Black Mamba will likely never again strike with the venom he once had, here’s to hoping he can strike again. Although, unlike Skip Bayless, I kind of appreciate the humble, self-deprecating Kobe who realizes his better days are behind him. Maybe then we don’t have to hear about how he wants to play when he’s 50, or have to prove himself 20 years after he’s retired. It’s true Kobe tried to be like Mike on the floor, but maybe after the experience of this injury and comeback, he can finally realize he only has to be like Kobe.
Josh Bolding wrote this article while wearing his Manu Ginobili jersey, Spurs hat, Spurs shorts, and Spurs socks. He’s from San Antonio.