We’re all basketball fans here. We love the Los Angeles Lakers to no end and we have a major disorder called “Purple-and-Gold-itis” in which our blood is purple and gold before oxygen hits it. It’s a made-up disease, but anything else you tell me will be ignored.
However, we’re all watching the rest of these NBA playoffs, even if the Staples Center isn’t hosting a damn game. And if you aren’t? You’re missing out, because oh my damn, these Conference Finals are ones for the ages.
And that’s not an understatement. Somehow, both Conference Finals have followed the same trajectory with totally different narratives. Close game after close game has left you with no nails and really sharp teeth.
Oklahoma City and Boston have revived themselves despite starting in an 0-2 hole that we all kind of expected them to be in. The Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs are reeling, and their backs are against the wall after forcefully doing the pushing from the gate.
Of course, we hate every single one of these teams. The Thunder for beating us, the Spurs because 2000-2008. The Celtics because they’re the Celtics. And the Heat because, seriously, who doesn’t hate that team with a passion?
But we’re emotionally invested. We’re somehow rooting for a team, even if it’s passively, because seeing a certain squad succeed over another might be because they embody characteristics and traits we enjoy, or because we just hate the other team’s guts way, way more.
Let’s go series by series, and try and predict which team the Lakers’ fan-base wants to see succeed.
Who hates any team more than the Miami Heat? I know Lakers fans are trying hard as hell to stay true to what resembles a “rivalry” with the Celtics, as if somehow, we all lived through the 1980s and we all watched the Bird-Magic rivalry that took center stage in the NBA thirty years ago.
I’m not pretending: Boston-LA doesn’t feel like a rivalry. Sure, they had our number in 2008 and we had theirs in 2010. The games were passionate then, and even when the two play, they’re passionate now. Skirmishes, these days, are the norm for a Celtics-Lakers game.
But I’m rooting for them, against the Heat. You can try and pseudo-hate them all you want, but I’m not about to front. I hate the Miami Heat, and the perseverance that the Celtics have displayed against a Heat team that consistently proves they’re meant to solely be a perennial frontrunner if they want to win titles has me inspired, and it’s making me re-think the “Lakers are too old” narrative, in favor of the “Maybe we need a new coach after all” narrative.
I’m pulling for the Celtics. Don’t look at me, though. They started it.
If you wanted to point to a truer rivalry for the Lakers, it’s still the damn Spurs. We might not have seen them in the postseason since 2008, but growing up, San Antonio-LA was the epitome of championship basketball. Glitz met grit, and oftentimes, both teams had a solid, championship-worthy combination of both. But do I hate San Antonio? Hell no. No Laker fan does, because the amount of respect the fan-base has had for that organization has made us smile every time San Antonio manages to find itself inching towards another title.
The Thunder? I’m not a fan. I’m sick of the “Kevin Durant is better than LeBron James” crap because that’s not true, and I hate LeBron James. Why else am I not a fan? Because the damn OKC fans — and a ton of other fans — seem to be serious Russell Westbrook haters, as if being the team’s second-best player — with an ambition to take over games and propel his team to victory with serious aggression — is a freaking crime. I know, I know, “you’re only saying that because he went to UCLA!” Even I’ll admit that as one of the reasons I dislike the Westbrook hate. It still angers me, though, and it almost makes me want the Thunder to lose as a result of Kevin Durant crapping out the rest of the series, however long that is.
I’m rooting for OKC, for the most self-serving reason there is: It’ll solidify Los Angeles as the path to a championship. Since 2008, the NBA Finals champs have either been us, or have beaten us in a 7-game series. At the same time, if San Antonio and Boston make it to the Finals, 1) shoot me, and 2) it’ll further bolster my belief that, with a mentality change, our current roster — with better shooters and better play from Ramon Sessions — can still compete for a title.
NBA Finals: Anyone but Boston
Although I’m rooting for the Celtics to beat the Heat, I’m also hoping that the Celtics do not hang another banner. That’ll further widen their narrow-ass margin in terms of titles. Currently, that team has 17 championships, while L.A. has 16. (That would be reversed if L.A. had just won in 2008, DAMN YOU, SOFT-2008-VERSION OF PAU GASOL.)
So screw you Boston, but only after you screw Miami.