Friday, June 18, 2010

winner [win-er]
a person or thing that wins; victor.
Synonyms include: champion, conqueror

A wedding rehearsal...during the biggest night of the NBA season. Could I BE more unfortunate? Luckily, every restaurant seems to house a big screen.
The small bar area at Gourmet 88 Mandarin Cuisine was the size of my bedroom, but it was filled with dozens of people staring intently at two flat screen TVs mounted on the wall. The silence was clouded in panic, the murmuring between strangers - mere sounds of worry, and the clink-clank of bottles tapping the tops of wine glasses, an uncanny impersonation of the cling-clang of every field goal attempt shot from players dressed in yellow hitting everything but the bottom of the net. the third Staples a Game 7...of the NBA Finals...between our beloved Lakers and the hated Celtics. It may sound like exaggeration, but for every loyal fan of the purple and gold, it was like a horrible dream. Of all the times in the entire season to play against the plan - WHY NOW?! Why can't Kobe get around the defense? Why doesn't Pau just ram straight to the hoop? How is Ron Artest the leading scorer in the game?!
Every second from that 13-point deficit was a moment to cheer (Hooray- Kobe's free throw went in!...Oh my goodness a signature DFish 3!...Holy crap a RON ARTEST 3!...Boom Boom PAU - a jumper over three Celtics!) or gasp (freakin' Rasheed Wallace a 3?...Rondo, worst jump shooter in Boston a 3?! SERIOUSLY?!). Every second of any lead, from 3 points to 6, felt like an eternity, too much time for Boston to catch up.

With 25 some seconds left in the fourth quarter, I could do nothing but hold my hand to my mouth because, in all honesty, I thought I was gonna throw up. But sooner than I could utter, "Boston Sucks," Pau Gasol had rebounded another ball, tossed it to Lamar Odom, who then threw a cross-court pass to a running Kobe Bryant as the clock expired.
Next thing I know, Kobe's got the ball under his left arm, his teammates come running and the streamers are falling from the Staples Center ceiling.
I hugged my dad. I hugged my sister. I hugged my aunts. I could've hugged EVERY PERSON IN THAT RESTAURANT...but I settled for just texting those who I knew were just as joyful (and tearful) as I was.
There really aren't any words to describe what it feels like when a sports team who you've devoted the last 9-10 months of your life to actually get what you hoped those 9-10 months that they would get. It feels, quite simply, special.
I felt like a different kind of fan this past season. Maybe after 22 years of loyalty, I'm experiencing what it feels like to look back on a team's legacy, something that, when I was much younger, seemed too profound a thing for me to relate to. But now I see. Where Magic Johnson, James Worthy and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar were my dad's guys, players that we speak of with such admiration and reverence, Kobe Bryant, Derek Fisher and Pau Gasol had become mine.
I couldn't help but think to myself, that when I get older, and nieces and nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews, are watching the hottest new team in the NBA, I'll be that elder in the room, talking about that night in the Chinese Restaurant when I watched the Los Angeles Lakers win their 16th Championship and cheered when Kobe Bryant (we used to call him the Black Mamba, I'll explain to them), was the Most Valuable Player.
I had a unique experience this past season, being one of many devoted staff writers for The Lakers Nation, writing articles about our favorite team, recapping games night after night, and getting acquainted with strangers through a common, great love for one of the best franchises in sports.
It'll be a long and agonizing wait for next season, but I have a feeling it'll be worth it. =)

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