At the expense of my talents for the written word succumbing to the cliche, we need to talk.
I suppose that with those words being spoken at the outset, Basketball, you know this isn't going to be a talk that either of us will enjoy. With that in mind, there's probably no need for me to offer you any pleasantries, as you know I'm quickly going to steer in the opposite direction. Still, I feel you've earned my respect, if not simply my courtesy, so please allow me the moment.
You've done a lot for me basketball. You're one of the few things I have in my life that's been as true to me now as you were in the beginning, and that alone is worthy of praise. You were with me when I was a kid, when all I needed you for was to provide a few games of HORSE or Knockout before I headed back to the pool in the summertime. You always went out of your way to lower your rims to me and my friends' levels, as we played outside, pretending we were Michael Jordan and Shaq. You still did that even on days where we'd play NBA Jam for hours, and only play with you for a few minutes. Hell, you helped me lose weight in high school, Basketball. Who knows if I would've gotten a date back then if it wasn't for you.
As I grew a little bit older, I began to appreciate you for everything that you are. All the stories about Hoop Dreams, and kids making it out of the projects? Those were things I couldn't properly respect when I was a kid, but that took on a whole new meaning as I matured a bit, and began to understand that not everybody was as blessed as perhaps I was. Where I saw you as a buddy, these kids saw you as a way out, and as a way up. Though they didn't always have happy endings, Basketball, you took them all separately, and wove them into an urban folklore of near mythological proportions. As someone who values a good story over perhaps anything else on earth, Basketball, this is the greatest of all the things you've given me. You transcend the very confines of simply being a "sport", but that's what has me so troubled, old friend.You see, Basketball. Though we grew up together, I fear you might not have been around when I learned to think for myself. There were those couple of years when you and I didn't see each other that much, and perhaps maybe that's when I started to become the man I'll be for the rest of my life. That man, Basketball, isn't a Laker fan.
Though I can appreciate the rich history of your Association, Basketball, I fear as if you've started to lose sight of the fact that you are, in fact, bigger than that. Like I said before, you've managed to transcend so many things, and mean so much to so many, and yet you stand before me, telling me that I should be concerned about the Lakers' collective age when you know damn well I'm a Spurs fan. You wanna talk about age, Basketball? You don't know the half of it apparently.
When your collective world of fans watched the Dallas Mavericks upset these Lakers, the media everywhere addressed it to me as if they were telling me my house was on fire. "What are the Lakers going to do?", they asked. "We should blow the team up!", cried others, examining their problem as if theirs was the only team in your Association that I should care about. For two solid weeks I had to sit and watch as you allowed the increasingly hack-ish media percolate on whether or not these Lakers had what it took to win again, as if their 15 titles would have them outcast like some poor child at a rich private school. I didn't bat an eye at first, Basketball, because I know you better. I sat back and assured myself that in spite of the looming collective bargaining that has to take place for your Association, you wouldn't allow many of your fans to suffer for the sake of a few. Well, to put it bluntly, Basketball, I don't know if I'm so sure of that anymore.
Strictly speaking in terms of your Association, which you seem increasingly willing to let represent you as a whole, Basketball, I get it. I've had to pay enough bills to know that money makes things go, so to speak. Still, perhaps it's because I was raised in a house where I was taught to have integrity that makes me so wary of what you're becoming. Or maybe it's simply because I'm a fan of a franchise that hasn't thumped its chest, screamed, and set off fireworks and smoke signals whenever it thought the world wasn't paying attention to it. Whatever the case may be, Basketball, I'm not buying into what your Association is selling. For some reason, I'm being told that my love for you isn't justified if the Lakers aren't allowed to hog the spotlight and be my primary concern. You know me better than that, and that's why I'm so disappointed.
Remember when we were younger, Basketball, how me and other kids at my school all had to have basketball jerseys to wear over our tee shirts? Some kids wore Jordan jerseys, and some wore Stockton, or Barkley jerseys. My friend had a Shaq jersey, and I had Hakeem Olajuwon. The point is, Basketball, look at those names I listed. None of them were Lakers. Shaq was still on the Magic back then, and we were all OK with that. Somehow, some way, my friends and I all managed to get through those days without concerning ourself too much with whether or not the Los Angeles Lakers would be OK. As carefree as we all were then, I assure you that just as many of us can be carefree now.
When I was thinking about this next part, Basketball, so much of me wanted to just skip over it altogether because I feel in a way that it's a low blow. After being subjected to this whole "tinfoil hat" thing that your Association, its analysts and reporters are selling though, I feel like it needs to be said. Its common knowledge that in the world you've created, basketball fans and Laker fans can be, and often are completely different entities from one another. I'm not stupid, Basketball. I know that being located in Hollywood means I'll see more than the occasional movie star filling those Laker seats. I also know that for every legitimate basketball fan who grew up loving the Lakers, there are at least a dozen who only know about them because they watch The Kardashians. I suppose I'm generally OK with that type of exposure, supposing your Association knows how to handle it, but with its superstars running amok, trying to recreate their AAU teams while undercutting the ones they currently play for, I kind of feel like maybe it doesn't.
In knowing me for as long as you have, Basketball, you understand that I think a lot about things. Although I'll be the first to admit that at times I can be a bit peculiar, you'll also know that I'm not dumb, and what you're allowing your Association to do does have potential long term ramifications. I know how valuable the Lakers have been to them over the years, but I also know that there are 31 other teams who comprise that league. Even on a bad day, those other teams are still more than just the Los Angeles Lakers. Those teams have fans too. You and I both know there are Celtics fans, just like there are Sixers fans and Pistons fans. This year, even the Miami Heat have a few fans (though I suspect several of those are simply errant Laker fans who strayed too far from the campfire). I'm sure that, somewhere, there is even a Bobcats fan. You see, Basketball, there is a lot more going on than your Association would perhaps like to admit. I just want you to be aware of that.
I feel like the hardest part of this entire thing has been the thoughts that maybe one day I'll have to look elsewhere for my enjoyment. My team is anchored by an aging legend who seems to embody everything I wish the rest of your Association valued as much as he seems to. I can't help but wonder what will happen on the day he chooses to walk away. I can't say for certain that I won't walk away too, at least for a little while if things keep going how they're going. I accept your Association for what it is, and allow myself to be entertained by it, but I do so in recognizing that it isn't bigger than you, Basketball. As objective as I am, I can appreciate what the Lakers mean to it, but that stops well short of allowing myself to be forced into their orbit. You have too much to offer to allow yourself to hang up on that one small aspect of it.
Talks like this are never easy to have, but I hope that you can understand where I'm coming from, because if you'll allow yourself to remember, you were right there with me. That old Huffy hoop that was only 8 ft tall, the Shaq Attaq ball, the Barkley Air Max Rebound Nikes, and my Hakeem Olajuwon jersey. Maybe I didn't know any better then, or else I would've been a Laker fan, but I suspect I just didn't care. I just loved YOU, Basketball, and that was all that mattered back then. I don't regret a second of it.
I hope you make the right decision, Old Friend. I'll be pulling for you.