The Los Angeles Lakers have always been larger than life. Their stars more like caricatures than actual people. Wilt Chamberlin. Elgin Baylor. Jerry West. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Magic Johnson. Shaquille O’Neal.
They were Sean Connery’s 007 — martinis “shaken, not stirred.” They were unapologetically famous and flamboyant. For them, pizazz was every bit as important as results — and they always got both. There were no mysteries and no surprises, because they were just simply better than the opposition. It was always showtime, loud and proud. Fast women. Fast breaks. Fast lane. They were so sexy and smooth it made everyone else sick.
The modern day Lakers? Led by Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, they’re a bit different.
They are Daniel Craig’s James Bond — martinis…”do I look like I give a damn?” They’re pretty famous, too, but younger, sleeker, more mysterious. They might also be more dangerous — both to themselves and the rest of the league. The talent is their for them to become unstoppable, but only if they don’t implode first. While their predecessors were fast, they’re more frenetic. Sexy and smooth? Nah. The “S” word I’d use to describe them is scary. Are they are wrecking ball or just reckless?
When Casino Royale dropped, I was convinced that Ian Fleming’s 007 franchise had reinvented itself and was back with the chance to be better than ever. Then Quantum of Solace dropped today to mixed reviews, and now I’m not so sure. The first edition of the 007 series relaunch was the best of Bond meets the best of Bourne. Apparently, Quantum isn’t quite either. I’m still convinced that Daniel Craig has what it takes to be remembered as the greatest Bond ever when he finally parks his custom Aston Martin, but will everything else coalesce around him for the franchise to reach its highest of heights? That’s a huge if.
When these young Lakers ripped through the Western Conference to earn a Finals birth last year, I was convinced that Jerry Buss’ franchise had reinvented itself and was back with the chance to be better than ever. Then the Boston Celtics dropped our Lakers, and now I’m not so sure. At the top of their game, these Lakers are the best of Showtime and the best of the triangle offense. But they can also be their own worst enemy. I’m still convinced the Kobe has what it takes to be remembered as the greatest Laker ever when there’s finally no venom left in the Black Mamba, but will he get the support he needs from his talented teammates to turn that possibility into a reality? Another huge if.
For now, I’m just glad that both Bond and our Lakers are back with the opportunity to be better than ever, and that both of these new chapters are just getting started. Really, for these dynasties just to have the chance to reclaim their former glory is a testament to the minds that have assembled such amazing talent around a single purpose. That’s why today I’m celebrating with a matinee movie followed by the main event match-up with Motown. Doubleheaders don’t get much better than this, especially when the latter has a familiar villain known simply as the Answer who’s running with a new outfit.