I am a diehard Lakers fan. As a kid, I used to write out scorecards on graph paper, play out the Lakers schedule for that season in games on a Nerf hoop in my bedroom, and keep stats. The best birthday I can remember was schlepping up to the Great Western Forum to watch the Lakers take on Adrian Dantley and Mark Eaton's Utah Jazz. One of my circle of friends' fondest Lakers memories is of me leaping from the couch, sprinting through the living room, out an open front door and screaming off the balcony at our old Costa Mesa apartment after Robert Horry's game-winning three-pointer against the Sacramento Kings in 2002.
As fate would have it, I found myself in Boston to play a show with my band, Thrice, on June 17, the night that the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Boston Celtics in Game 7 to win their 16th NBA Championship (an unbelievable tenth during my lifetime).
I'd highlighted the date in my mind once the Finals schedule was released. While for the most part I'd hoped that the Lakers would have taken care of the Celts in five or six games, a part of me really wanted to be at the House Of Blues in Boston, on Landsdowne Street (which runs directly behind the Green Monster at Fenway Park and is flanked by sports bars that are packed to the rafters with throngs of the most hammered and obnoxious Celtics and Red Sox fans imaginable) for the most important game of the year against a bitter rival, even if it was happening 3,000 miles away in LA.
A part of me wanted to be the loneliest Lakers fan in Boston. And a part of me feared for my safety. If the Celts won, I'd have to step out of the club and directly into a riot. If the Lakers won, I had to limit my donning of Lakers gear to only a t-shirt onstage. That was at the urging of my mother, and because I am well-aware that copious amounts of alcohol and an ego-crushing loss to an arch enemy could lead to arbitrary punches being thrown. (I have absolutely no interest in getting unscheduled dental work or facial reconstructive surgery done.)
Our 90-minute set started just before halftime and I followed the action on my laptop that I'd stashed just behind the drum riser. Noticing that the Lakers trailed by 13 at one point almost made me fall off of my drum stool. As soon as we finished our encore, with the game tied, I sprinted upstairs to a tiny production office to catch the final six minutes of regulation on a 13-inch TV, huddled amongst a few Celtics diehards from the local crew, and some fairly indifferent tour and bandmates. Six minutes that seemed like six hours.
Even though I was fully engrossed in the action on that tiny screen during those six minutes, my mind started to wander. I started to reflect on all of the great moments that I've been lucky enough to experience as a Lakers fan, and wondered what I really got out of seemingly living and dying with every trip down the floor, every shot, every rebound, every foul call, and why I'd been doing that for as long as I can remember.
As Kobe coralled Lamar Odom's length-of-the-court pass, and looked back at his teammates, smiling ear-to-ear my iPhone reminded me why I do invest so much time and energy. Texts started pouring in from my folks in Irvine, my girlfriend in Orange, my best friend in San Diego, a friend in Laguna Niguel, a friend in Mission Viejo, a friend in New York, a friend in Costa Mesa, a friend in India....
Despite our geography, we shared a moment of pure joy. Together.
That's the beauty of fandom to me.
My 3hree Favorite Lakers Playoffs Moments
Robert Horry's Game Winner v. Sacramento in Game 4 of the 2002 Western Conference Finals
This was the shot I mentioned in the opening paragraph.
Derek Fisher's Game Winner v. San Antonio in Game 5 of the 2004 Western Conference Finals
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The look on Bruce Bowen's face is priceless.
Ron Artest's Clutch Three-Pointer in Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals
My real-time reaction to this: "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO-YESSSS!"