When it comes to sports, there’s nothing worse than indifference. It’s what causes people to start gambling on games or become fantasy football addicts. Why else would anyone outside of Cleveland or Jacksonville care about a Week 3 game between the Browns and Jaguars? Indifference is the reason why the Major League Baseball commissioner’s office prays for the Yankees to make it to the World Series every year. It’s because everyone has an opinion on the Yankees. We either want to see them win or we want to see them lose. There’s nothing in-between. The same can be said about the Lakers.
The same could have also been said about Lakers fans when it came to Andrew Bynum. They either loved the guy or they couldn’t wait to see the Lakers “ship his ass out” to quote Kobe Bryant. They either thought he was going to lead the Lakers into the post-Kobe era or they wanted to see him traded for Carmelo Anthony.
Put me in the camp that loved him. For starters, I don’t think enough people sympathized with what he went through during that four-year stretch when he missed 124 regular season games and all 21 games of the 2008 playoffs. It couldn’t have been easy to suffer injury after injury and go through surgeries and rehab at such a young age. He was willing to put in the work to get back and every time he came back better than he was before the injury. That’s why I’m still wondering why people called him lazy. Have you seen what he looked like at the 2005 McDonald’s High School All-American Game?
I’m going to miss Andrew Bynum. That doesn’t mean that I’m not ecstatic about the trade because I am. I felt like it was a trade the Lakers had to make. But that doesn’t mean that I won’t miss his unfiltered comments. He always told reporters the truth. But more often than not, people misunderstood what he was trying to say, sometimes intentionally. Perhaps nothing he said was taken more out of context than when he was asked about trade rumors, something he dealt with practically from the moment he was drafted by the Lakers:
“It doesn’t matter to me; I don’t read the headlines. There’s a bank in every city, and I’m going to play hard basketball wherever I go, so I’m good. I really don’t care about it, man. You’ve just got to play basketball, just have fun.”
People took this to mean that he was in it for the money when he was really saying that players have no control over where they get traded so he wasn’t going to waste time worrying about it.
Then there was Bynum’s quote during last season’s playoff series with the Nuggets when he said of elimination games:
“Close-out games are actually kind of easy. Teams tend to fold if you come out and play hard in the beginning, so we want to come out and establish an early lead and protect it.”
A stupid thing to say? Probably. But you can’t really blame the guy for telling the truth when asked. In the five seasons prior to this one, the Lakers lost just one close-out game in 13 series in which they had a chance to eliminate an opponent. So even though it was dumb to provide the Nuggets with bulletin board material, he was just being honest.
I had the chance to see Bynum’s first Summer League game in Long Beach after he was drafted in 2005. I noticed something in his game back then that was still prevalent seven years later. When he wasn’t involved early, his head just wasn’t in the game. And while that’s not exactly the most flattering characteristic, I always thought he should have been involved early. He had every right to think that the game would be easier if it was played through him. I agreed with him. And that’s why I’m happy for him and wish him all the best. He’ll get that chance to prove he can be the star of a team. His best days are still ahead and I look forward to giving him a standing ovation when he returns to Staples Center as a member of the Sixers on New Year’s Day.
So in honor of Andrew Bynum, here’s Part I of my top-10 memories of his time with the Lakers:
Counting down from 10-to-six:
10. The time the TV microphone picked up Bynum yelling at Sasha Vujacic (10/26/06)
There were few Lakers over the last 10 years who infuriated and frustrated fans the way Sasha Vujacic did. It didn’t help Sasha when he signed his three-year extension in 2008 and expectations were raised. Sasha wasn’t really known for his passing. That made it all the more hilarious when Bynum was overheard screaming “Gimme the fu**ing ball!” at Vujacic during a preseason game against the Nuggets in Anaheim:
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