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June 12, 2008: I sit here before you at 10:00 o’clock at night, aproxamitely an hour and fifteen minutes following the most shameful, saddening and downright depressing walk of my life…but those words don’t begin to describe the emotions felt by myself and millions of others. And if it wasn’t the most shameful, it has got to be up there ‘cause nothing else strikes me as ever doing this to me. “You just blew a twenty point lead…that’s gotta be embarrassing,” I heard from someone behind me…he was right. It sure was. Hello everyone, I’m Bryan…but on Rootzoo I am better known as my alias “Baseballnerd423” and I live in Los Angeles, the City of Angels. But those angelic figures fell asleep in the final twenty four minutes of play in Downtown LA. I sit here before you tonight, ladies and gents, in pure shock and disbelief…along with millions of others across America. Some, mainly including those in New England, are in a state of shock that is urging them to party all night at their local pubs and get even more wasted than they already likely are. To be them for the night would be something I would love to be…except I would not want to be rooting for this fake team they are. Others, including the disinterested parties everywhere else besides Los Angeles and Beantown, are in a state of shock with the expression, “Holy $#!@, did that really just happen! What a game!” I envy these people a great deal, because they got a helluva basketball game tonight as well as no suicidal emotions. And lastly, we have those in Los Angeles…the state of shock where I found myself in tonight in Downtown Los Angeles: capital of one of the most utterly depressing nights in sports history. Folks, I present to you my story of my night at Staples Center, the home of Games three and four of the NBA finals.
I was born here in Los Angeles, and never knew much else. Although baseball and football are my two favorite sports, I would consider myself quite a big Lakers fan. The NBA Finals began on Thursday night, when the most arguably the most famous rivalry in all of sports, the Lakers and the Celtics, met again for the first time since 1987. Being the storied franchises for so long (the Lakers and Celtics combined have won half of the NBA’s 62 championships), through the 60s and the 80s, they met again. Prior to this season, the Celtics acquired superstars Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen and instantly were the Eastern Conference Favorites. Soon after, the Lakers traded a bag of chips and a small soft drink for superstar Pau Gasol, and the Lakers became the favorites in the West. All went as expected, and the two number one seeds met in June. The series began last Thursday, however I was unable to watch the Lakers lose as I had first row tickets to the Dodgers game (I get quite lucky with my sporting tickets…I’m fully aware and am very grateful.) After an apparently disappointing game one, they went on to play again on Sunday.
Sunday afternoon, I was sitting at home twiddling my thumbs when I got a message from a friend offering me tickets to games three and four of the NBA Finals. An opportunity of a life time, really, and I held them in my hands. I instantly called my dad and told him about the offer, and we accepted. Sunday night came, and so did the Lakers trip to Boston as they looked pretty bad as they were at one point down by twenty four points. But with 39 seconds to go, the Lakers found themselves a few fast breaks, three pointers, and slam dunks ahead and cut the lead down to a mere two points. However, the Lakers were not able to pull the trigger and tie up the series one to one, and fell six points shy of a Lakers victory. Poor officiating by the refs and lack of defense AND offense for the Lakers cost the Lakers a victory…but I do not want to go into details about this game. Monday soon came, and I anxiously awaited the next day as I carefully slipped into conversation with anyone who would care just exactly where I would be the following day.
And on Tuesday morning, I woke up and got ready for action. I put on my Lakers shirt, and was the most pumped I’ve ever been for a sporting event. As my dad walked down Pico Avenue, Grand Avenue, Figuerora, and all the streets leading up to the arena, the adrenaline rush grew greater and greater with every step. Let me tell you, for those of you who haven’t been to a Championship game…the first home game of a championship series is something you need to experience before you die. Even if you can’t get tickets to the game, make an effort to walk around the city and feel the buzz and electricity surrounding the arena. Thinking back on the energy and excitement I felt walking into Staples Center on Tuesday, I’ll be able to have that added energy to get through a test after a long night of studying or stay awake during class. After collecting an array of free stuff promoters were passing out on the streets, including “T-Mobile NBA Finals” shirts (which I am currently wearing…it’s a VERY nice shirt), I headed into the stadium and watched in awe as the NBA Championship trophy was seen everywhere.
Tons of celebrities were at the game, and I heard murmurs everywhere around me of, “Hey look it’s ___________________ (fill in hot shot celebrity here). It seemed as if neither team deserved to win at lots of points, considering both teams played very sloppy. In the least scoring game in any Lakers- Celtics championship game ever, the game was soon over just as quick as it started. It was an amazing experience that I will never forget, and after watching an ugly Lakers win lead by Kobe Bryant, Sasha “The Machine” Vujacic, and not much else, I was left quite satisfied. But I hadn’t had quite enough yet. I still had tickets to game four, except my dad couldn’t go. Having everyone in the city wanting to go, I took an old friend of mine who is one of the biggest Lakers fans I know because I knew he would appreciate it more than anyone.
There are no words to describe this renewed Lakers rivalry. How many of the fans actually were old time Celtics and Lakers fans, I’m not sure. But it sure seemed like there thousands more Celtics fans on Thursday night than there had been two nights before. Yet that was all fine and dandy in the first half…the better to taunt you with, my dear. More Celtics fans meant more we Lakers fans could yell at. And at the time it seemed as if we had every right to because Odom was playing like a madman and the rest of our team (with the exception of one) followed. Up by eighteen at the half (and at one point even twenty four points---twenty four, sounds like a pattern), we came back to the second half with our heads up and our tickets to game five in our hands. The game, as far as we knew it, was over. We were just curious by how much we would win by.
And this is what separated us from the Celtics. In game two, the Lakers were down by twenty four points and cut it down to two---but that was it. In game four, the Lakers were up by twenty four and the Celtics cut it down to two---and that’s when I knew it wasn’t over. To be honest, I was VERY nervous when we were only up by eleven, let alone nine, seven, five, three, two, and eventually one. And by the time it was a tied ball game, I turned to my friend and realized it was five minutes into the game and we had had the lead the entire game…and I wanted to keep it this way. Yet as our lead shrunk, so did my tolerance for an obviously drunk Boston fan behind me. This guy is the kind of guy who I’d be willing to bet my entire life’s income on that he could not name me the starting line up for last years Celtics team without help from his slightly less drunk friend. But his lack of knowledge did not take away from his drunken excitement, as after every play he yelled in the loudest, deepest voice ever, “YEAH!!!!!” Had there been a scribe present writing down what this man said, every word would have been “yeah”, but there would be plenty more exclamation marks where that came from. In the final two minutes, after every “yeah”, I said loudly under my breath, “shut up.”
(It’s these fans that come to home games and root loudly for the other team that make me angriest. I have no problem with you being a Celtics fan. We can’t be friends, but I don’t have a problem with you. But if you come to Los Angeles loud, drunk, and rowdy…I’ll get a little pissed. And if you sit behind me and give me a headache, I’ll get furious. Being that he was quite a lot older than I am, I obviously couldn’t do anything except write about it J. I am not really one to talk, because I am known to go to Dodgers games wearing full Mets jersey, but I try my best to keep it somewhat cool. Ugh, stupid Boston fan. I don’t think I’m ever wearing green again in my life.)
We’re on a sports website. We all know Kobe only had 13 points. We all know Lamar had the best first half I’ve ever seen from him, but had four points in the fourth quarter. We all know Phil was outcoached by Doc. We all know that “the machine” went from an all star game to the game of an unknown athlete. We know this. But assuming I’m the only one writing about the finals, I’ll tell you the feelings I was feeling. As I was walking down the escalator of shame (poor designing mistake, by the way. There is only one escalator in all of Staples Center and all of the droopy Lakers fans were all going down it at the same time as loud rowdy Celtics fans high fived.), I didn’t know what to think. Possibly how utterly depressing this loss was. Possibly how much we needed this game because of how impossible it is to come back from a 3-1 lead. A group of obnoxious, thick accented Bostonaians began telling me how much it must hurt to be me in a teasing way. I shut them out, and I began thinking about every single reason why we lost the game. But you can get that from a sports commentator.
As I was walking down Figuerora Avenue, a man on a cell phone said on his phone said to whomever he was talking to, “Look, I’m glad I went and here’s why…I got to see first hand as the plays unfolded before my eyes that the Lakers don’t deserve this championship. They are a shitty team.” And I looked at him, at first taken back because he was wearing a Lakers jersey, then soon realizing I agreed with him. I’m glad I went, because I learned the Lakers don’t deserve it. Kobe and Fisher have there rings. Pau was only here for a few months. Lamar played like crap in other games. The bench didn’t step up like they needed to. But Paul Pierce suffered through all those terrible years in Boston, and is finally leading a good team. KG, one of the leagues best players, played for such a terrible team for so long and is now playing on a great team in the championship. Ray Allen played for a mediocre team and is stepping it up when it counts. This hurts to say, because I am a huge Lakers fan. But they aren’t playing like they deserve a ring, and that’s the damn truth.
Remember, I’m a Lakers fan. I want the ring. But I learned first hand that they are not the better team and it is not likely we get the championship. Riding home from Staples Center with the window open, I heard lots of cussing and angered and depressed Lakers fans. Not many people were talking, and if they were they were screaming. It’s only a game, I know. Worse things could happen. I could be severely sick. Someone I know could be severely sick. But this is what had killed our souls in Los Angeles this week. And this was my experience with the NBA in the past seven days…and I hope I was able to educate you in some way. It’s now 11:30. The loss has had time to soak in, but I need to keep reminding myself you lose a series after four losses, not three. It’s the Lakers – Celtics…stranger things have happened.