It happened only 362 days ago. I awoke in my Washington D.C. room, where I was living for the summer. The bags forming under my eyes would have sent even Jeff Van Gundy’s scouring in shame. I was completely drained from the onslaught of 65-hour work weeks. I felt like Christian Bale on the set of Terminator; any number of insignificant actions could have sent me headlong into a “Mike Tyson wants to eat your children” type moment.
I grabbed my pail of coffee, dragged myself into the car and embarked on another sunrise drive to work. I drove in complete silence, only listening to the clutter of my own conflicted thoughts. It didn’t matter how hard I tried to barricade the flood of images I had witnessed the night before; I could not.
Paul Pierce hoisting the trophy.
Kevin Garnett mercilessly pounding his chest.
Green and white streamers falling as a defeated Kobe Bryant slowly walked off the floor.
My beloved Lakers had just been mopped up by the Boston Celtics, the worst-case scenario any true Lakers fan could possibly imagine.
On the morning of June 18th, 2008, I would have given anything to jump in a Delorian, ramp it up to 88mph and soar to a day living in the future – A day where Kobe Bryant’s critics would sound more ludicrous than T.J. Simers column in the L.A. Times this morning; where Phil Jackson’s name would always be listed on the line above Red Auerbach’s; where the Los Angeles Lakers would come to the end of redemption’s road, blissfully smile and hoist the trophy once again.
As all of us quickly discovered, there was no Delorian parked in our driveways; no time-travel shortcuts to a perfect ending. Our road was paved with glorious wins in Boston and Cleveland, and dumbfounding losses in Charlotte and Sacramento. With the uprising of a new Laker star, and a chilling injury to the one we expected to be. With anxious moments in Denver and Houston, and thrilling victories in Orlando. Most of all, with faith; the undying belief that the day we envisioned in our heart would one day spill out into our world.
We have faithfully watched 105 games this season. Spent countless dollars on jerseys, hats, tickets and other apparel. Resiliently defended our superstar when the National media decided to become witnesses. Depleted hours of our lives reading hundreds of columns like this one.
Being a genuine and devoted fan is not a hobby or a pastime; it is a way of life. A commitment that requires an investment of time, a commodity more valuable than the number printed on the bottom line of our bank statement. We are what we commit our time too; and on this day, that makes all of us here at the Lakers Nation champions.
Phil Jackson said it best, “It’s all really about the journey”; and it has truly been a pleasure traveling with all of you.
Congratulations to the NBA Champion Los Angeles Lakers; and to all the loyal fans who, like me, envisioned last night just 362 days ago.
Enjoy it, Lakers Nation! I’ll see you at the parade.
Jason Riley is a columnist for the Lakers Nation. In addition to this column, he writes on an array of topics that you can check out by visiting J-Ri.com. You can email him by clicking here, look him up on Facebook, or follow him on Twitter for in-game coverage.