Monday, February 26, 2024

Lakers – 2010 Champion

June 22, 2010  
Filed under Coffee Table

By Paul Choi —

What an ugly game. Just look at the stats and you’ll wince. Watch the first half over and it will make you cringe. But none of that matters. The Los Angeles Lakers shot 32.5 percent from the field and missed 12 free throws. Who cares? Kobe Bryant missed shot after shot and Pau Gasol didn’t show up until late in the game. Not important. It was gritty. It was dirty. It was tough. It was everything the Lakers weren’t supposed to be. But…it was beautiful.

The Lakers defeated the Boston Celtics in a winner-take-all slugfest for the team’s 16th championship—sweet, sweet 16. “This is the sweetest,” Bryant said after the game. “We understood how bad the city wanted it, there’s no question about it. This one is by far the sweetest because it’s against [the Celtics] and because it’s the hardest by far.”

Just two seasons ago, Boston beat Los Angeles in six games. Younger Lakers fans knew about the rivalry. These two teams have met 11 previous times in the Finals. They together have won more championships than the rest of the National Basketball Association combined. There’s so much history: West and Cousy, Wilt and Russell and, of course, Magic and Bird.

But the truth is, before 2008 the Celtics haven’t been that good for nearly three decades. To many fans, the rivalry has basically been an old folktale. There was no personal animosity towards that horrid green.

In 2008, the rivalry became more than recited history; the rivalry became real. Although the Lakers were favored, it was soon clear who the better team was. Celtics pounded the Lakers, including a 131-92 beat down in game six. I was at game four when Los Angeles blew a 24-point lead—a memory that has been repressed for my own good.

Although the Lakers bounced back the following season to defeat the Orlando Magic, 4-1, in the Finals, there was still something missing. Many analysts thought the Celtics were finished; they were too old and had nothing left in the tank. To me, it just meant no chance at redemption.

Which is why this championship is so special. The Celtics somehow beat the odds and made it to the finals. The Lakers had another shot to chase away the demons. Lose this time and it really was it. It would’ve haunted everyone for a long time. It might’ve changed the landscape of the team. “We learned from the disappointment and the frustration and the anger that came from losing that series,” said Derek Fisher.

Ask the fans of the hit television show, Lost, and they will tell you that it’s about the journey. Just a few years ago, Shaquille O’Neal was gone and things looked bleak. Kobe couldn’t win with an underachieving Lamar Odom, an unknown Smush Parker as point guard, and the dreadful Kwame Brown at center. How the Lakers almost reached the second round of the NBA playoffs is beyond me.

Fans remember when Kobe demanded change or to be traded. Fans remember the joy of receiving a gift like Pau Gasol, only to be in pain in the hands of the Celtics.

That is why game seven meant everything. It was more than just one championship; it really felt like the culmination of all the things that happened in the years past. This was for 2008, 1984, 1969 and so on. This was for my (and many other Lakers fans’) emotional and mental well being. This was for Kobe’s and Phil Jackson’s legacy. This was for the Buss family. This was for Pau Gasol, Ron Artest, and every other Laker past, present, and future. If you look at it that way, there was no choice but to win.

“I think 53 rebounds, 23 offensive rebounds, just tells you how much this team fought to become champions again,” Gasol said. The 2010 Lakers did indeed fight. The journey brought them here and they fought for their piece of history. Don’t let the few scenes of rioting and cars burning fool you. For real fans, this one was pure and sweet as they come. This one will be hard to top.

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