Amongst the myriad of activities going on in my life right now ranging from midterms and classes to recruitment and student involvement, there is one thing that has me on the edge of my seat. It’s something that I have been anticipating since July 1st, 2018. LeBron James is playing for my favorite sports franchise, the Los Angeles Lakers.
I have been a Lakers fan since 2006, when Kobe was hot off of scoring 81 points in a single game, the second greatest scoring performance in NBA history behind Wilt Chamberlain’s 100. Before immigrating to the US, I had never watched basketball, but there was something so satisfying about watching the ball fall through the net. I absolutely relished playing at the park and at school during recess/lunch. Initially, I decided to become a Lakers fan because I was drawn to the purple and gold jerseys. Then, as I started to watch their games more regularly in the fourth grade, I realized that they had the greatest player in the NBA, Kobe Bryant. This man was unguardable, an absolute beast – offensively and defensively. No one could stop him. He was fierce and competitive – everyone wanted to be like him. I watched him decimate all of his competition alongside the help of his new compadre, Pau Gasol and versatile 6th man, Lamar Odom. The 07′-08′ Finals loss to the Boston Celtics had me in tears. I desperately wanted Kobe to win without Shaq because I knew how much it meant for his legacy. I was personally invested in his success. The Gold medal win in Beijing during the summer of 08′ helped ease the pain for the time being, but I knew Kobe’s run of success was far from over.
The 08′-09′ championship win over the Orlando Magic was a highlight of my childhood. I remember watching the championship parade on TV and recording the broadcast with my phone’s camera because I was so attached and full of emotions. When we redeemed ourselves in the 09′-10’Finals against the Celtics and Kobe got his fifth championship (one more than Shaq), I was ecstatic! At the time, I didn’t realize how privileged I was to watch one of the greatest ever achieve milestone after milestone. I was optimistic in thinking that Kobe could surpass Michael Jordan’s 6 championship rings, but sadly that never came to be. After the failed Dwight Howard / Steve Nash experiment and the achilles tear, Kobe entered the sunset of his career. Every single game he had left was a treat. He still had the wisdom and talent, but his body was on the verge of failing him. He did not fail to deliver in his final career game, scoring 60 points to cap off a historic career. I don’t remember screaming so much in my life. He went out in a way that only Kobe was capable of going out.
After Kobe retired, I continued to root for the Lakers. I watched as promising young talent came in – Julius Randle, Brandon Ingram, and D’Angelo Russell. But season after season, the Lakers continued to struggle – failing to make the playoffs time and time again. But I think our drought is soon to be over because this summer we acquired a player that I have actually been rooting against since I first started watching basketball – LeBron James. There is no denying this man’s greatness, but he has always been competing with Kobe’s legacy. I was furious when Ray Allen bailed him out in the finals a few years ago in Miami, giving him a second ring. I have actively rooted against LeBron in every Finals series he has been in since 2011. I would much rather have the Warriors win then have LeBron add to his championship count, making an ever-stronger case for a greater career than Kobe. If you were to tell 12-year old me that LeBron would end up playing for the Lakers alongside former-Celtic pest Rajon Rondo, I would have called you crazy and out of your mind. But that’s exactly what has transpired – and I’m SO HYPED.
The Lakers have what on paper looks like a perfect combination of young players (Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart) and veteran players (Lance Stephenson, Rajon Rondo, Javale McGee) and LEBRON JAMES! LeBron, at 34 years of age, is still the best player in the NBA. He is showing no signs of slowing down. Incredibly intelligent and physically blessed, he has exciting talent surrounding him. I now have a great reason to root for his success, he is playing for my favorite franchise. As I’m writing this blog he is one quarter into his first preseason game as a member of the LA Lakers. A new age is upon us and I think it’s about time that LA returns to its former basketball glory!