Knowing What You Have: Why I Love Basketball, the Lakers and My Mom

I never thought my parents were wrong to keep the secret from us. In a way it preserved my childhood for a little bit longer. I never looked upon my father as sick or doomed. He was always just my dad and I loved him.

Still it goes without saying that the time following his death was extremely rough. I was withdrawn. Depressed. Angry. Yet sports were always there as my outlet. It was basketball above all others that captured my imagination.

I could shoot for hours by myself. Sometimes I would con my mom into thinking I was sick (sorry mom) and make a miraculous recovery right around the time school got out. I’d be off playing pick up games till it was pitch black.

During the years that really formed who I am today basketball became the nexus through which everything was connected. On the blacktop is where I made my friends. It’s where I learned to compete. To be assertive. It was place of refuge where I could always forget whatever troubles were ailing me. Basketball, in a way, was also where I learned to love.

Come the fall of 1994 I finally convinced my mom that she should get cable television.  It only took a few broadcasts before I fell head over heels for the Los Angeles Lakers. For the soaring dunks of Eddie Jones. For Nick Van Exel’s crafty drives and dagger threes. For the poetry and wit of Francis Chick Hearn.

The passion I developed for the Lakers helped to fill a void. It’s something I’ve carried with me for seventeen years. Even now, whether it’s writing for Lakers Nation, coaching kids, playing down at the Y or screaming at the television on a Tuesday night, basketball is an integral part of my life.

Still, while I’m grateful for how special the game has been for me, I’m not positioning this emotional tale as a shield to insulate myself, or Lakers fans in general, from outside criticism. On the contrary, the Lakers deserves scrutiny.

You could argue that they just laid down and died on Sunday. Bynum’s ridiculous cheap shot on Barea was classless and should not be swept under the rug, nor should the lack of heart and desire that the whole squad showed in getting pummeled by 36 points.

The Lakers underachieved all season and getting swept by the Mavericks was simply the exclamation point. Yet moving forward I find myself undaunted. Perhaps it’s my life experiences. Perhaps it’s my years of loyalty, but if anything I’m now more sure than ever of why I love rooting for the Lakers.

As a a fan I’m willing to invest. Invest my time, my money, my loyalty and my passion. In return all the Lakers do is lend me their dreams. For though I may never be able to live as they do, I can still at times live through them, sharing both in the glory of victory and the agony of defeat. Seems like a fair trade off, doesn’t it?

Even now, reflecting back on things, I find it fitting in a way that the Lakers’ season comes to and end on Mother’s day, the holiday that best approximates the greatest lesson of my life. It’s something I hope Lakers’ fans remember too.

We still have our 31 finals appearances, 16 rings, and an owner who unquestionably is doing everything in his power to win. Oh, and hey, pretty much the best weather in the entire world. I say be grateful for what you have, never worry about what you don’t. Because the misfortunes of today very well might turn into the catalysts of tomorrow. That’s goes for basketball, and for life.

Thanks mom, for teaching me that. Thanks for getting me cable television so I could watch Lakers games. Thanks for supporting me with unconditional love and instilling in me a sense of curiosity about the world that will never abate, so long as I shall live. I love you beyond words.

Happy Mother’s Day.

And go Lakers.

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