It is no secret that I hate the Los Angeles Lakers. I won’t even use the word “dislike.” I HATE them. When they beat the Portland Trail Blazers in Game 7 of the 2000 West Finals, when they “beat” the Kings in the 2002 West Finals, when they beat the Spurs in the 2004 West Semis, when they almost beat the Suns in the 2006 West 1st Round. I loathe the Lakers. I disdain them. The hatred that runs in my blood for the Lakers has become not just a temporary illness, but a permanent condition.
While my peers were watching Goku, cheering him on in the hope that he would someday defeat Vegeta his nemesis; while my friends were watching Pikachu lose to all his bigger and more menacing opponents; while they were busy watching Kenshin, Sakuragi, those Gundams, Naruto; or while they were laughing as Jerry outwitted Tom, the Roadrunner tricked Wile E. Coyote, or Popeye beat up Bluto, I watched Shaq dunk the alley-oop pass from Kobe Bryant as the Staples Center erupted in cheers; my heart sank as Robert Horry shot the buzzer-beating three from the top of the key; Derek Fisher shocked me when he hit the game-winning three pointer with only 0.4 of a second to put up a shot.
And at the same time as they were rooting for the protagonists to defeat their nemeses, I was cheering the opponent on, whether it was the Kings, the Trail Blazers, the Dallas Mavericks, the Spurs, the Bobcats, the Suns, the Knicks, whoever. Because when the Lakers play, to me the NBA is only made up of two teams: the Lakers and their opponent.
This applied everywhere the NBA is. I’ve played at least one NBA video game since 1999. Never did I use the Lakers in any one of those games. I hated them in real life. I hated them on TV. I hated them in video games.
Think of how Ateneo hates La Salle in the UAAP. One would hear a side heckle the other non-stop, from the start of the game up to the final buzzer. And maybe even after. That’s how I hated these Lakers.
When Steve Nash signed with the Los Angeles Lakers months ago, I immediately thought it was a good move for his career. Finally, he would win a championship. Because he has had it all: All-Star appearances, two MVP trophies, deep playoff runs, Game 7s, blowout wins and losses, buzzer-beating wins and losses, triple-overtime games, a number of assist titles.
But it was also bittersweet for me. Steve Nash has been my favorite player for the past eight years. He was the point guard of the team I rooted for since 2004, the Phoenix Suns. Being a huge Suns fan, I know and I’ve seen the struggles these two teams had in that time period. I saw in 2006 when the Lakers almost beat the Suns in the first round. I watched that fourth game that put the Lakers up 3-1, when Kobe hit the buzzer-beater in overtime.
I vividly remember watching Game 7 of that series. My family and I were in Batangas and I saw the game on the now-defunct channel Sports Plus. I was screaming at the TV with every basket that put the nail on the coffin, as the Suns decimated the Lakers 121-90 (I remember that score by heart. I did not look it up.). And it was Eddie House who scored the Suns’ last three points.
I can still recall the following year, 2007, the first round saw a rematch of the two teams. Amare Stoudemire said they won’t have the same drama that was present in their 2006 duel. He was right. They ended it in five games (Game 1 of that series was televised on a Monday, 3:30 am Manila time).
Through all of those, Kobe said he hates the Suns the most because of all the difficulties they gave the Lakers. Likewise, Kobe, I hate your team too.
And then Steve Nash joined them. Inasmuch as I would hate for Kobe to get ring number 6, for the Lakers to win banner number 17, for the Lakers to simply win, I would love just as much to see Nash head into the Finals, to finally get a chance to win at least one ring for himself, for him to remove the dubious distinction of being the player to play the most playoff games without a Finals appearance. Because, of all the great players to be ringless, Nash is the one I want the most to win one.
When two extremes meet in the middle, or in my case, when two extreme emotions meet in the middle, an implosion might happen. Right now, these two sides are ramming head-on into each other. Root for the Lakers? Root for Nash? Nothing’s sure right now.
But I still hate Kobe.