Section 316 is an essay series by TheLakersNation.com Writer Andrew Rafner. Andrew will explore a theme relating to the deeper world of Lakers basketball. We now present…
Opened up his little heart
Unlocked the lock that kept it dark
And read a written warning
Saying ‘ Im still mourning
Over ghosts that broke my heart before I met you’
- Laura Marling
It just hasn’t felt the same.
Last season, I was writing these wildly optimistic pieces about how magical it all felt.
There was something so innocent and pure about what we all witnessed last season.
I was enchanted. I was in puppy love with the Lakers for the first time in my life. I loved the emergence of Little Sash. I swooned over the homecoming of Derek Fisher. I reveled in Kobe’s Blue Period. I couldn’t stop pinching myself whenever I saw Pau in that Purple and Gold (okay, I still do that from time to time).
It seemed like the best sports fairy tale ever written: The Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers were to meet in the NBA Finals.
A scenario I had only seen on worn out VHS tapes and yellowed newspapers. It all felt so right. It felt like the perfect ending to the perfect season.
Only in this fairy tale, the evil dragon killed the charming prince. And not only did the dragon kill the prince, but he roasted him alive and proceeded to lick every morsel off his bones… all in front of the beautiful princess, no less.
It seemed like a nightmare. As a city we watched our heroes be hopelessly beaten into oblivion, outmatched in every way possible. We could only stare at our televisions in disbelief and scream “THIS IS NOT HOW THIS STORY ENDS!”
And then, with but a whimper, the Lakers flew to Boston and lost by 39-points.
The script was horrifyingly flipped. Darth Vader convinced Luke to join him on the Dark Side. Mr. and Mrs. Beuller caught Ferris. Freakin’ Team Iceland BEAT the Mighty Ducks at the 1994 Junior Goodwill Games.
The pain of what happened in Boston put the Lakers, along with all of us, in this strange state of suspended animation. For some strange reason, this season just feels like an extension of last. As if the off-season was just a Tuesday-to-Thursday break.
The Lakers have unfinished business and it is weighing on them. And that is why it has not felt the same.
Last year’s Finals killed the joy, the purity, the innocence and in its place is this half formed being bent solely on rectifying their greatest failure yet being inextricably crippled by the gravity of what actually transpired.
Somewhere between last June and October we lost our way. We began operating under this false pretense that redemption is somehow owed to the Lakers. That perfection is the only option, and anything short of that perfection is failure.
And we are just their support system! Imagine what it is like to be a Los Angeles Laker.
The thing about losing in the Finals is that there is nothing afterwords. There is no second chance. They had to sit and deal with it. And I think that most of our Lakers sat with such a rotten taste for such a long time that they got a little brackish and mean and disenfranchised. They forgot the joy, the purity and the innocence of last season.
Up until last night, I could not figure out why I felt so bad about a team that had the best record in the league.
And then, I realized what it was.
It is fairly clear to me that they have the Ghost of Last June lingering over them each and every night. And it is manifesting itself in the form of blown leads, defensive regression, poorly executed offensive sets, etc.
In truth, this specter is just the enormous weight of actually achieving the greatness they simply stumbled upon last year pressing down upon them.
That is what Jordan’s misplaced cockiness and swagger is.
That is why Little Sash can’t shoot anymore.
That is why Andrew went down again. It was destiny. My friend Tim says that there is an “impression that because they lost without him, he’s the ONLY answer.” This is not true. They need to prove to themselves that they were always capable of greatness…even without their so-called “cornerstone”.
Maybe that is why I have grown to dislike Andrew so much, because again, he missed the opportunity to experience this journey. I feel like he gets to skip the hard part while everyone else gets crippled by their responsibility and expectation.
To put it simply, I think the Lakers are scared of fulfilling what is expected of them. It’s too big.
Not even the unflappable Kobe Bryant is immune from this. There are moments when I see this terror in his eyes. Like he is experiencing a war flashback.
They all have this Ghost haunting them and with every loss and transgression, they are instantly teleported back to Boston on June 17, 2008. Forced to relive the Green and White confetti drop upon their heads.
Forced to remember the flight back home. Exiting the plane empty-handed without the slightest idea of what had just happened.
Forced to again hear the collective cries of a city that loves them so deeply.
It weighs upon their souls and it has affected the way they play.
There is something profound happening to our cherished franchise and we have been ignoring it for the last six months, choosing instead to focus on frivolous regular season contests, getting caught up in wins and losses and injuries to young Centers.
Turning a blind eye to the real story.
When I was a little kid, my step-dad told me that every time you get hurt emotionally, there is a hole inside you that grows larger and larger, and that it is in our nature to refuse to confront the hole, only to find things to fill it.
The Lakers have decided to fill their hole with this misdirected quest to have the best record in the league, when in reality there is only one thing that is going to make them whole again; Only one thing to exorcise this spirit that haunts them and plunges them into an endless abyss of self-doubt.
There is only one way their quest will end. There is only one way that the sadness will stop. There is only one way to bring the joy back.
There is only one way.
And they are going to have to do it without Andrew.
The only way the ghost will go away is if they beat the Celtics in June…and they just might have to do it in Boston, too.
It is their destiny.