When I moved to the United States in 2008, I hardly knew what basketball was. Well, I knew what a basketball was and what the general point of the game is, but I had hardly ever watched it or played before. Growing up in Canada in the early to mid 2000s, the country was still a devoted hockey country so I had little exposure to basketball. Canada will always love its hockey the most, but the Raptors championship and promising young players like R.J. Barrett have since skyrocketed the popularity of the sport in the north. When I moved to L.A. permanently, I was thrown straight into the midst of the Lakers’ back-to-back-to-back trips to the Finals, including a repeat in ’09 and ’10. Kobe Bryant’s killer mentality and the resilience of those Laker teams became something I fell in love with, and set a standard of greatness that I expected to see in purple and gold every single year. However, as all Laker fans know, it hasn’t been such smooth sailing as of late.
The last time the Lakers made the playoffs was in 2013. I know that other franchises have been through much longer droughts and much more pain, but for such a storied club with such rich history, this has been devastating to say the least. For a fanbase that had become accustomed to competing for a championship nearly every single year, the last 6 years have been among the lowest of lows. We went from watching Kobe lifting trophies with Pau, Odom, and Ariza to having to watch guys like Robert Sacre, Kendall Marshall, and Ryan Kelly lead the squad. It just hasn’t been much fun to watch. In fact, its been downright sad.
Last summer, Laker fans got a glimpse of hope. The free-agent signing of LeBron James had appeared to restore order to the kingdom, and fans immediately began dreaming about a return to the Finals again. The season didn’t go as well as expected however. Almost everyone on the roster seemed to deal with injuries at some point in the season and the misery continued. The Lakers became one of the most disgruntled franchises in the whole league, with events like the Anthony Davis trade saga, Magic stepping down, combined with the Rob Pelinka drama only making the on-court product look even more atrocious.
This summer, everything has changed. The front office made the long awaited move to acquire Davis from New Orleans and it seems like the rest of the roster has fallen into place. Pelinka and James lost out on Kawhi, but they rebounded by making the deepest roster in the entire league, and still don’t appear to be done just yet. Guys like DeMarcus Cousins, Avery Bradley, Danny Green, Rajon Rondo, Quinn Cook, and Troy Daniels all appear to be smart pickups that will contribute in the coming year. Pelinka added guys that play good defense and can shoot from the perimeter, something that the Lakers desparately struggled with last season. LeBron has paired with arguably the biggest young star in the game, and things are finally looking bright for the LakeShow, even with the rise of the Clippers just down the hallway. The Lakers have built a roster that looks ready to trade blows with anyone in June.
As a Laker fan since the first time I watched basketball, I firmly ask bandwagon fans to pick a different team to cheer for. If you spent the last 6 years rooting for the Warriors or Cavs, just stay away. The loyal fans have remained through some very dark times in Laker Land, and there has been a lot of pain and struggle.
If you’re looking for another new team to root for, look somewhere else. If you weren’t a supporter during seasons when we were the laughingstock of the entire NBA, don’t try to become a fan all of a sudden. When LeBron and A.D. lift the Larry O’Brien trophy next June, only real Lakers fans can say we earned it. The bandwagon is full.