And then the Lakers were done

Posted: May 22, 2012 by shawnfury in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , ,

When I was a kid and the Lakers’ season ended in defeat it was all over the moment CBS cut away from its coverage. The next day – or two days later, depending on how late the game ended – I would read an 800-word AP wrapup in the Mankato Free Press or Star Tribune. And that was it.

I was a little kid and alone and upset. My dad taunted me while my mom admonished him and comforted me. When the Lakers lost to the 76ers in a sweep in the 1983 Finals, I sat in a chair and spun in circles and cried while Moses Malone and Julius Erving celebrated. Why did Worthy have to break his leg before the playoffs? In 1984 I just went to bed after the Celtics took Game 7, in a series the Lakers handed to the dreaded men in green. Why didn’t Magic get a shot off in the final seconds of Game 2?

To make myself feel better I’d pore over my NBA Guides and NBA preview magazines. I’d check the ages of players and tell myself that Magic and Worthy still had plenty of good years left and maybe even Kareem could pull off another season. I’d find out what happened to other teams that lost in the Finals and see how they rebounded the next year. I’d go to the park in the days that followed and pretend I was Magic or Byron Scott and this time the Lakers made the final shot. But again, it was all alone and that was all the Lakers talk there was until the following October, when the NBA again started up and I bought new guides and magazines and prepared for the new season. When we finally got cable, I could at least watch highlights the night of the final defeat.

On Monday when OKC defeated the Lakers, I shared the experience with countless people on Twitter. Some mocked the Lakers, others were fellow fans lamenting Bynum’s pouts and Pau’s decisions and Sessions’ turnovers and Brown’s rotations and Kobe’s shots and all the rest. I can read a dozen stories about the series tonight and a hundred more in the morning. I can watch all the press conferences live and read Lakers message boards, where fans want everyone traded or fired or banished from society.

I’m not sure which method I prefer, but shared misery probably is preferable. In 1984, I had to conjure up punishments for M.L. Carr in my old 9-year-old head and had no one to share them with. Now I can read 2,000 rants and a thousand more trade ideas, none of them plausible, all of them somehow comforting. And at least there are no more tears.

A few days ago on a Lakers board, someone — who was perhaps 2 years old and a savant with the ability to type on a keyboard but not really understand his words or history — said he doubted if any fanbase had it tougher than Lakers fans. Yes, that tortured Lakers fanbase. You can make an argument that even Yankees fans possess a more legitimate claim about having it tough as fans. They at least had to suffer through some down years in the ’60s and then went 19 years without a title until the 1996 championship. Lakers fans? Yes, there were the three years after Magic retired that saw the Lakers missing the playoffs one year and being bounced in the first round the others. But even that down time was followed by a young team with Van Exel and Jones and Vlade – and Magic’s return! – and then Shaq and Kobe came and here we are 16 years later. Even during the Smush Era, Lakers fans at least got to watch Kobe go for 35 most nights and 81 on one night.

No, no one feels sorry for Lakers fans. Not the ones who vent online and not the ones who mourn alone.

At least the Lakers went down with something of a fight tonight. The deficit was 16 but it was a contest through three quarters, which is much different than so many elimination games during Kobe’s time, when the games were over by the start of the third.

Oklahoma City was better. They’re younger and have three guys who can take over at anytime. Their third-best perimeter player is James Harden. The Lakers’ second-best perimeter player is Steve Blake. They have a system and guys who know their roles. Yes, the Lakers could have — should have — won Games 2 and 4 but you can always what-if all through the night. The great teams pull those games out, the way the Lakers did against Portland in 2000 or against the Spurs in 2002 or against the Nuggets in 2009 or against the Celtics in 2010. This wasn’t the embarrassment of last season’s loss against the Mavericks, when the Lakers barely showed up on the court in Game 4 and then watched Andrew Bynum walk off it in disgrace.

What makes this loss different is that it could be the end of…something. But we don’t know what. It could have been Pau Gasol’s final game as a Laker or maybe they keep him and trade Bynum or maybe they deal them both. It was one more year for Kobe’s legs and how many more years can his body live up to his mind’s expectations? Does Mike Brown return and get a whole preseason with the team or does Jim Buss put out a call for another new coach? Will Mitch Kupchak come back? Will Metta World Peace even be Metta World Peace next year or will he sport a new name, a new haircut but the same inconsistent jump shot? And has anyone seen Matt Barnes?

When I was young I never slept well the night the Lakers’ season ended. I sat in bed, going over the defeats and looking for a plan to the future. I tossed and turned. I went over difficult losses and individual possessions and performances. If only they grabbed a rebound or made a free throw. If only Bird had missed. I only fell asleep when I convinced myself that someday — maybe even next year — the Lakers would be back on top. Only then could I rest that night.

Some things haven’t changed.

  1. This is one of those rare times where we as fans would appreciate less availability of information. When the Packers lost in the playoffs last year, I didn’t turn in SportsCenter or read any related articles for at least a week. Avoidance is the new mourning.

  2. Jerry says:

    Thank you to David Stern…if the Lakers had Chris Paul they would still be playing and a serious contender for the title. Darth Stern wanted him in LA – just not with the Lakers.

    • Pat Fury says:

      This torment is without what Laker fans put up with year after year in the 60’s when losing to Boston. I wanted West and Baylor to win so bad but the men in green tormented many years.

  3. shawnfury says:

    Yeah I was going to say that in the ’60s Lakers fans could actually say they were tortured and they might have even been the most tortured (just think, you hadn’t even experienced any of those Vikings losses in the Super Bowl yet). Jerry West is still a little insane because of what happened in that decade.

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