Most people wouldn’t define themselves as a person of faith. One of the reasons for that is because faith has always been one of those taboo topics nobody is allowed to talk about.
Of course, there are always exceptions.
If something terrible has happened in our Country (e.g. 9/11, Katrina), faith is suddenly an acceptable social ritual, and one that perplexingly becomes a general sentiment shared by the majority of Americans.
This makes about as much sense as anything Doc Rivers has said this decade.
Our world can unreasonably downplay the exercise of faith in our individual lives, but the simple truth is this: It doesn’t matter if you believe in God, no-God, Jesus, Allah, Buddha or Lady Gaga’s egg reincarnation (easily one of the five dumbest things to happen in pop-culture history) – faith is an indispensable and unavoidable part of life.
Which also means it’s an indispensable and unavoidable part of sports.
It’s my job – and one of my hobbies – to keep up with the highly emotional opinions circulating Laker Nation. I have found that you can place just about every single Laker fan into one of two faith camps:
Camp A: The Lakers will somehow win.
Camp B: The Lakers will somehow lose.
When pushed, just about everyone is either an optimist or a pessimist – it’s near impossible to live your life in the middle. Whichever camp you occupy determines your perspective on everything that happens during the NBA season, or in this case, the off-season.
I have lived the majority of my life in Camp A, but maybe not for the most commonly alluded to reasons.
It has nothing to do with Kobe Bryant or Phil Jackson.
It has nothing to do with tradition or the historical significance of the franchise.
It had everything to do with Jerry Buss.
Since 1980, the year Dr. Buss took the reins, the Lakers have won ten NBA championships. He brought us the Showtime Era and the Bling Dynasty. He masterfully calmed Kobe’s trade demands back in ’07, shrewdly swiped Pau Gasol and coolly added a couple more Larry O’Brien trophies to the case. In 32 seasons as owner of the Lakers, Dr. Buss has .500 record… in getting to the NBA Finals (16 of his 32 years).
Magic in ’79? That was Jerry’s idea. Jack Nicholson sitting courtside? Also his idea. Lakers girls? Yep, Dr. Buss’s brainchild. He was the creative mind behind the lucrative marriage between the Lakers and Hollywood. There are thousands of
aspiring actresses waitresses with fake boobs and tanning memberships that can thank Jerry for their fifteen minutes.
No matter the situation, or how dire things seemed for the Lakers, I always walked to Camp A, said In Buss We Trust and never even considered crossing the street to Camp B.
Until this week, that is, when it became undeniably evident that Jim Buss will be calling the shots from here until October 21st, when the world ends. It all reminds me of something I read some time ago by author and ESPN writer Roland Lazenby, who has close ties to the Laker organization:
“I don’t know Jim Buss, but I do know that he should study hard how to be a good owner. He is not a personnel guy, and he should not sit anywhere close to the GM’s office. If I could do one thing to fix the Lakers? I would send Jim Buss off to owner school with his dad.”
Two words come to mind: Billy Madison.
We all remember what happened in ’04, when Jim hired a defensive minded coach – Rudy Tomjanovich – to replace Phil Jackson after a derisory and awkward loss to the Detroit Pistons in the NBA Finals.
That went well.
Fast forward to ’11, replace Rudy T with Mike Brown and Detroit Pistons with Dallas Mavericks, and it sure looks like the inside of a Delorian to me.
Jim is a guy who never seemed to be on board with Phil Jackson, going as far as publicly criticizing him before his older (and more competent) sister Jeannie stepped in and restored order behind the scenes.
Former player, assistant coach and current head coach of the T-Wolves, Kurt Rambis, once accused Buss of puffing up his chest a little bit and trying to take charge and make his voice heard and make his voice known.
Most recently, during his second attempt at ridding the franchise of any Phil Jackson leftovers, he canned assistant GM Ronnie Lester (the only other guy who can take any credit for scouting Bynum) along with dozens of scouts, training staff members and video team personnel.
But hey, he has made one solid personnel decision that makes sense: He added his personal bartender to the Lakers payroll.
The supreme logic of Jim Buss has Bynum as untouchable, Mike Brown as the heir apparent and Kobe Bryant, the cornerstone of the Lakers franchise, not worthy of even a phone call to let him know the Lakers had hired a new coach.
If you’ve never thought of yourself as a person of faith, well…
You may want to re-think that.
In the Billy Madison era of Lakers’ basketball, blind faith is really all we have.
Jason Riley is a columnist for LakerNation.com. Follow him on Twitter.