As in life, the sports world has its fair share of ‘haters’: People who, for whatever reason, have an extreme distaste for a team or player. And these reasons always vary. It could be the franchise’s reputation, the personality of the team’s owner or maybe you just met someone from that city eight years ago and couldn’t stand them. But there’s only one sure-fire way to build an army of haters, a method the Los Angeles Lakers franchise has perfected over the years. It’s called winning.
With all due respect to these teams and their fans, no one hates the Jacksonville Jaguars. Or the Seattle Mariners. Or the Washington Wizards. Why? Because they don’t give anyone a reason to. People turn into haters when you’re doing something right because they want to see you fail. The Lakers have been doing it right for a while. From their laundry list of All-Stars, to coaching, to the front office, they’ve maintained a (mostly) consistent level of success. People HATE that.
Haters are also the result of rivalries. You look at the Lakers’ past bouts against teams like the Celtics, Spurs and Suns and it’s easy to understand where the animosity comes from. There are also the media-made, manufactured, “lets-see-what-we-can-brew-up” rivalries like Lakers/Heat, a clash purely created because of the incessant Kobe/LeBron debate. But in this age of social media, where fans can conveniently have civilized arguments (yeah, right) about whose team is better, haters seem to be prevalent now more than ever.
And the Lakers are right up there with the Yankees and Patriots for attracting these kind. When you win 16 championships, have 16 Hall of Famers and 8 MVPs, all while playing in perfect, sunny southern California, you’re going to piss some people off.
So, how do you deal with haters? It’s simple, really.
Let them talk.
The easiest way to counter the hate is to keep quiet and let your team do the talking. No one can argue against 16 championships. No one. What haters can do is talk and ramble and babble until they realize the person they’re trying to convince isn’t you, it’s them. If you do feel so inclined to educate the hater, save your time with this four-word rebuttal: Kobe, Nash, Pau, Dwight. Those five syllables say much more than any sorry, Wikipedia-prepared argument ever could.
Let them believe what they want to believe.
When opposing fans brag about their team being the next dynasty, let them bask in their nothing-can-go-wrong fantasy world. Everyone adopts that mindset after winning a title or acquiring a big free agent. It’s normal. Let them fantasize about how their young players will develop and their veterans will stay healthy. Entertain their fantasy GM off-season roster changes that will make them better. Or you could kindly remind the naïve hopeful that winning multiple championships isn’t easy. Getting complacent after winning one is. Either way, nothing is bringing that hater down.
Don’t take any Lakers bashing personally.
Admittedly, I still get a little riled up whenever someone trashes Kobe. The dude is considered the hardest worker in the league, wins multiple championships and yet haters still gon’ hate. But there are plenty of reasons why Kobe is consistently atop the “most disliked player in the NBA” list. He’s one of the game’s most prolific scorers, he’s still killing it on the court at 34 years-old, and is in perfect position to add to his ring collection. So of course people are going to call him a selfish ball-hog (despite his career 4.7 assists/game), and whine about his on-court demeanor towards refs. They’ve got to find something negative to hone in on. But like so many frantic Kobe double teams, their petty bashing does absolutely nothing. Kobe doesn’t pay attention to it, and neither should you.
The truth is, we’re all haters to a certain extent. I know I can’t look at the color green without getting a little queasy. The trick is to mask that hate with knowledge and humility so you don’t embarrass yourself. I’m all for friendly sports arguments and defending the Lakers. Just pick your battles wisely and remember that you can’t argue with stupid.
As long as the Los Angeles Lakers keep winning, the haters will always be there. And really, that’s the way we like it.
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