21-Year Anniversary

My brother is probably one of the biggest Laker fans around. He lives and dies with them as I do the Dodgers. That’s not to say he isn’t a Dodger fan or I’m not a Laker fan, but our devotions are just slightly more intense for one sport over the other.

That’s not to say that basketball doesn’t make me cry as baseball does because it does. Last night seeing Kobe with Derek Fisher after the game brought tears to my eyes. Actually, I always cry when Los Angeles teams are in the final round of whatever playoffs they are in.

But back to my brother. Sports are just a small testament to the brother-sister bond that we have. When I told my mom this evening that he and I would likely be going to the parade together on Wednesday morning, she asked whether I remembered the first Laker championship parade I went to.

Boy, do I.

I was six years old. It was 1988. It was an intense series and a pretty hot June if I remember correctly. My brother and I were thoroughly excited because our dad was so excited. We jumped up and down on the couch right alongside him. And I cried then. Yup, at six years old, I cried. The funny thing was I didn’t cry then because the Lakers had won, even though I knew it was a big deal for my father. Nope. I cried because Isiah Thomas cried. I remember the image of him after the Pistons loss to this day. I remember my dad asking me why I was crying, and I said that it was sad that the other team had lost. I don’t think he got it. And looking back I laugh because Sunday night, I would have liked nothing more than Kobe Bryan to elbow Dwight Howard somewhere, anywhere. (Sorry, I’m not a violent person, I promise.)

My parents bought us our first championship shirts in 1988. They were purple. And they had the silk-screened signatures of all the players on them.

And they took us out to city hall, and believe it or not, I do remember Pat Riley on the steps. I remember Magic Johnson. It was a good day. And it was the start of something very interesting.

Over the years my attention to the Lakers has waxed and waned. It tapered off in elementary school and was revived in high school by this kid, Kobe Bryant. Along the way, I loved Eddie Jones. My brother–Nick Van Exel. I lived through the Del Harris years. I watched the signing of Shaq. I watched year after painful year until Phil Jackson arrived, and finally again, we found ourselves in the championship circle of the NBA Finals.

2000. That was an amazing year. That was one of those years that was comparable to my 1997 year with the Dodgers. Every single game. We watched them all. In my speech at high school graduation, I made reference to the game the night before (which they had lost). I opened that speech with a reference to the sadness I felt not only because I was leaving high school but because the Lakers had lost.

A few days later, championship in hands, we made our way downtown again. This time it was my mom and all three of my brothers. We stood in the now converted parking lot across Staples Center and listened to these speeches and watched Travis Knight dance up there.

It’s amazing to me the joy that sports has signified in my life. Not only because of the teams that I have followed and the players that I have gotten to know, but because of the people I watch them with.

So, yes, I told my mom. I do remember the first parade I went to. It was 21 years ago.

And for a second that made me feel old. But once that subsided I realized how much being a fan of Los Angeles teams has been part of the very amazing relationship I have with my brother. On Wednesday, we will yet again, be out there. And yet again, we will be in totally different places in our lives, but still sharing that first moment together.

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