Tip-Off Timer: Lakers Win 15th NBA Title
Tip-Off Timer counts down the days until the first game of the 2009-10 season. On Monday, there are 15 days remaining.
When it comes to today's Los Angeles Lakers, there is no third way. There is no fence sitting and there are no maybes and no one says, "The Lakers? Meh. I can take 'em or leave 'em."
There is either love or hate. How do we love/hate thee?
Let us count the ways.
You can start with the Lakers culture. Their fans are wealthier, more famous and prettier than you.
The Who's Who of Hollywood turn out because the Lakers have employed a Who's Who of NBA history. The best point guard ever, Magic Johnson, never wore anything but Forum Blue and Gold. The model for the NBA's logo, Jerry West, spent his whole career with the Lakers. Though he became a front office punchline as the GM of the L.A. Clippers, Elgin Baylor changed forever the small forward position and once held the post-season record for most points in a game with 61. To top it off, the four best centers in NBA history (George Mikan, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Shaquille O'Neal) have led the Lakers to at least one title.
It's quite possible the Lakers' all-time starting five may be able beat any other five guys you could throw together from NBA history. Discuss.
Of course, having employed this all-world talent has led to -- Enmity? Jealousy? -- spectacular results. On Oct. 27, the NBA will roll out the basketballs for its 62nd season since the BAA and the NBL merged. The Lakers have qualified for postseason play in 56 of those previous 61 seasons. That's right, you can literally count the times the Lakers have missed the postseason on one hand. In those 56 playoffs appearances, the Lakers have made the Finals an NBA-record 30 times and on June 14, 2009 they won No. 15, leaving them two short of Boston's 17.
But don't just take Joey Buss' words for it. I was there. The Lakers really won their 15th NBA title, though it didn't have the feeling of the first 14.
There was no sense of inevitability as there was in 1972, when Wilt and the Logo led L.A. to a then-NBA record 69 wins. There was little Showtime in this crew compared to the glitzy, glamorous, glorious teams of the '80s. And this team didn't have Shaq at his most dominant, stomping his way through three straight Finals with his teammates on his shoulders.
For the Lakers' No. 15 was strangely methodical, almost workmanlike. They throttled the Jazz in five, nearly stumbled against a Yao Ming-less Rockets team in seven before dispatching the Nuggets in six in the West Finals. In the Finals, the Lakers only needed five games to kick the Magic to the curb, but in three of the five games, the Lakers had to fight, claw and scrap their way to the finish, winning twice in overtime. It was almost, dare I say it, endearing.
From Ariza's two huge steals against the Nuggets to Derek Fisher's 3-pointer to send Game 4 of the Finals into OT, the run to title No. 15 had its moments.
The one constant it did have, however, was the driving force of one Kobe Bean Bryant, quite possibly the most polarizing superstar in NBA history. Like those courtside Lakers fans, Bryant is wealthier, more famous, more talented and better looking than you. That, and he's made an interesting career of winning games but alienating people at the same time.
So, it's understandable if you had a little lump in your throat when you saw Bryant accept the Bill Russell Finals MVP shortly after L.A. closed out Orlando.
It all depends if you were choking back tears or choking back the vomit. Really, is there any other option?