Incendiary start: I’m glad I’m not a Lakers fan.
Their roster screams of someone who has left the ‘Force Trade’ setting on in NBA 2K13 and isn’t afraid to use it. The motor behind the seven-seconds-or-less offense, one of the best international players ever, two former defensive players of the year (one of whom is arguably the best center in the league), and one of the best shooting guards of all time are all now part of one body. A starting five for all to covet. They’ve stashed away a former Sixth Man of the Year winner and one of Philly’s most cost-effective pieces from their playoff run last year, who together will attempt to tread water while the starters take a rest.
It isn’t the roster that makes me glad not to be a Lakers fan; there is nothing in the assembly of this team of which to be ashamed. It’s a matter of sheer wizardry on the part of Mitch Kupchak — and whatever members of the family Buss are still involved in the organization — to not only have acquired this much talent, but also to align their finances perfectly with Kobe Bryant’s potential retirement.
But here the edge of expectation is sharp, the cliff face steep, and the gravel loose at best. For the organization and, more importantly, for the fans, only a championship season will satisfy. How can Kobe say, even in a whisper to his mirror before anyone else is awake, that he is the best off all time if he cannot lead this squad to glory? In the minds of some, falling at all short will counter carrying that 2006 team by himself.
Barring a miracle of science or an unforeseeable opportunity, I will never be an NBA basketball player, nor an NBA GM. But as an NBA fan, I can acknowledge the predicament of the Lakers faithful on the eve of this regular season. The Lakers have won nearly one third of the championships awarded in my lifetime. The expectations have always been high. But perhaps more dangerous to that fandom is their history of success; for the Lakers, there is nothing left to surpass. What must happen for the Lakers fans’ elation to exceed that of the past? What would be the value of this championship win, should it come to pass?