Lakers Poised for All-Time Greatness

Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Greatness always starts with mediocrity.

Right, I get it. That doesn’t make any sense. Only it totally does. Let me explain it this way…

You can’t rise from the ashes if there aren’t any ashes to rise from, and you certainly can’t overcome the odds if they’re not already stacked against you.

Here’s the problem with that paradigm in sports: We like to sprinkle in the ashes after they’ve already been risen from, and we love to stack the odds after they’ve already been overcome.

It’s called revisionist history, and we do it all the time.

Jordan’s Bulls? Magic’s Lakers? Bird’s Celtics? Shaq and Kobe’s Lakers? All unquestionably stories we would commonly call tales of greatness, but none of them encapsulated greatness in the most enchanting sense of the word.

Front running success is still success by definition, but true greatness typically begins in complete failure.

It’s the difference between Jessica Simpson gracing the cover of Maxim again… and Rosie O’Donnell gracing the cover of Maxim.

The first one you’re not completely shocked by, although you’d find it impressive that Jessica was able to shed a few pounds and find her way back into the limelight.

The other?

Impossible. Not a chance. No way in hell.

… And right on queue, in walks the ’12-13 Lakers – 100 pounds overweight, sloppily drunk and stumbling around the room.

It’s completely absurd – maybe even borderline psychotic – to even suggest that this sub-.500, injury riddled, apathetic Lakers team could even play into the second round of the playoffs, let alone…

Gulp.

Hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy in June.

Championship? … Wait, Championship!?

Impossible. Not a chance. No way in hell.

And that is exactly why this season – this one, right now – carries with it the potential to redefine our own definition of greatness.

We don’t see opportunities like this very often in Laker Nation.

Over the years, and under the spoilage of Jerry Buss, the Lakers have led the NBA in front-runner greatness.

From West and Chamberlin, to Magic and Kareem, to Shaq and Kobe, to Kobe and Pau, nobody expected the Lakers to fail. While there were times of adversity and temporary failure, there was never a forest of ashes to rise from, or insurmountable odds to overcome.

The ’01 Lakers winning the title? A perfect example of greatness achieved by maximizing potential.

The ’05 Lakers winning the title? Now that would have been one for the history books.

With more than half of this season dead and gone, Dwight Howard’s lethargy has been infuriating, Gasol’s injuries have been discouraging, and D’Antoni’s system has been highly questionable (if not completely ludicrous).

Kobe is killing himself just to squeak out games against subpar opponents.

Dr. Jerry Buss tragically passed away.

The Lakers have to essentially run the table… just to make the playoffs.

These are all prerequisites for greatness.

This is one of the few times in Lakers history where there is a smoking pile of ashes to rise from, and insurmountable odds to overcome.

Greatness always starts with mediocrity, remember?

The Lakers have the second part covered, and that’s exactly why this season could be the greatest any of us have ever witnessed.

Impossible. Not a chance. No way in hell.

…. Which is precisely why you should keep watching.

Jason Riley is the executive director of LakerNation.com. He also pens a regular opinion column, Out of Bounds, and is the co-host of Voice of the Nation: Fastbreak. He currently splits his time in Los Angeles, CA and Carlsbad, CA.