The NBA is a year long roller coaster. I’ve been fan of this sport for a long, long time. I’ve seen some great moments in basketball. The Spurs two decade long run of consistency, the Pistons run in the early 2000s while doing it essentially with 0 superstars, from D-Wade taking over the 2006 NBA finals and dominating the Mavs, to Dirk defying the odds to beat the 2011 Miami Heat. There has been plenty great players and moments, but I never really aligned myself with a team.
Being from Pittsburgh, we’re kind of in the middle of Cleveland and Philadelphia. Being from Pittsburgh, we naturally hate those sports towns because of the Browns and the Flyers. Cheering for a player like Allen Iverson was easy because he was an underdog. But then Lebron James got drafted to the Cavs. Reading about his story in sports illustrated and seeing all of the hype, he became an easy guy to root for. I never considered myself a Cavs or a Sixers fan.
In college, I tried to be a Thunder fan. You saw them play and asked yourself “what wasn’t likable about an expansion franchise having young, exciting players?” Russell Westbrook was an explosive point guard with a bulldog mentality. James Harden off the bench played starting minutes and destroyed opposing defenders. Oh and let’s not forget about Kevin Durant who easily was the best of them all. A legit 7 footer who could score against anyone by shooting, driving, or posting up. I was easily gravitated to them, however, I never really found myself being an Oklahoma City Thunder fan.
Around 4 years ago, I decided to align myself to a franchise. Being a fan of the NBA is fun but when you have an emotional stake into a team, it’s incredible. Seeing YOUR team win in any sport is gratifying. I thought if I could align myself to a team, I’d be all in to the 24/7 nonstop season of the NBA. The Los Angeles Lakers we’re entering the post Kobe Bryant era so they seemed to be the perfect pick.
Watching one of the greats of my generation go out was an incredible ride. I knew they weren’t going to win but I wanted to see Kobe succeed. His last game was one of my favorite games ever to watch. The Mamba went out in a blaze of glory shooting every chance he got. The funny part about it is the same night, the Warriors clinched a 73 win season. On social media though, the talk was all Kobe.
With post Kobe coming in Laker land, they had to rebuild and were going to struggle. Handicapped by stupid contracts and trades (Kobe contract, Dwight Howard trade) it was going to be struggle. I was still all in knowing damn well they weren’t going to win. Despite all of the shortcoming due to the front office, they had assembled some great young talent.
It started with Julius Randle, De’Angelo Russell, Larry Nance, Jordan Clarkson, and Brandon Ingram. As an all in fan, I truly believed kids believed were going to be something great and the Lakers were going to be back. These were kids that were going to revive the franchise. Then Russell was traded to the Nets to make way for Lonzo Ball to run the ship. In that trade, the Lakers shipped terrible contract Timofey Mozgov but received Brook Lopez and the draft pick that became Kyle Kuzma. I was happy about Brook and extremely excited for Lonzo to lead this team. I did not expect Kuzma to become the player he is now.
The new kids era then became Lonzo, Ingram, Kuzma, Randle, and Nance. Watching these kids play I found myself again thinking that THIS is team that will revive the franchise. With a pass first PG in Lonzo running the offense (and Lavar Ball hype of course) I found myself more invested. So invested in fact, I bought a Lonzo jersey and a BBB t-shirt! Fun fact: Lonzo Ball was my first basketball jersey ever purchased. The ride I’ve been on of seeing my team becoming organically built through the draft, possibly becoming a team like the Thunder with KD, Harden, Westbrook, the process in Philly with Simmons plus Embiid, or dare I say the Warriors with Steph, Klay, and was possible…until June 2018.
Putting it lightly, Lebron’s first season in LA did not go as planned. It got started with a brawl suspending Ingram and Rajon Rondo. He then got hurt on Christmas and missed a significant amount of time for the first time ever in his career. This was the first domino to fall in what we see today. Y’all know the rest of the story if you’re an NBA fan of the 2018-2019 Los Angeles Lakers. That brings us to today. All of the kids that were drafted in Clarkson, Randle, Nance, Lonzo, Ingram, and Hart were all parlayed into Lebron James cap space for summer 2018 and now generational superstar in Anthony Davis in 2019.
This ride has been nothing short of a roller coaster. The kids are now gone (minus Kuz) and now my Lonzo jersey is absolutely worthless. The beauty of being emotionally invested as a fan is being all in no matter what. My initial reaction was sort of sad because I was there for the lows. I talked myself into what the kids could have been. A couple days later, I can honestly say I couldn’t be more excited for what is going to come. Yeah it kinda sucks the kids are gone, but MY team now has Lebron James paired with Anthony Davis. Free agency is looming so there is obvious work to be done. Like the 2019-2020 Lakers though, I am all in. The best part about being a NBA fan is I can still watch the kids grow in New Orleans with yet another nationally hyped kid in Zion Williamson. The best part about being a Lakers fan though is I get to watch my team kick every other teams ass up and down the hardwood.