“If ever we’re apart we will always be together”
-Winnie The Pooh
Falling in love is one of the greatest feelings a human being can experience. I’ll never forget my first time while I stumbled my way through adolescence. We thought we knew what we were doing, but we had no idea, instead allowing the currents of love to rush from our hearts at will, steering us in a direction that we’ve never gone before. The blinders were on, and we were moving with a full head of steam. Just a couple of bouncing betty’s, oblivious to the damage we could inflict when triggered.
And when it finally did, it hurt just as strong as the love once did.
You can never replicate or duplicate baby love. The way that it consumes you, drives you, opens you up to the core, revealing the true essence of who and what you are. When you’re in love, things just make more sense. How sweet, precious and beautiful it is in every way.
And on the flip side, how when you get in too deep, trying to keep up above in your head, instead of going under. But sometimes, there’s just no way to hold back the river.
All things in this universe are a manifestation of one thing only, but they all have something to balance it out. There’s no success without failure, no triumph without defeat, no happiness without sadness. Whether you consider something to be lead or gold, everything has a piece.
The same applies for love. You’ll trek through the desert to follow your Personal Legend, with love guiding you along the way, only to question why you ever considered to call the desert your friend in the first place when the wind won’t stop blowing sand on you.
The duality of love can be cruel: love can enable a person to discover every treasure in the world, and it can also sink them further into the quicksand.
Just like my first woman, I fell in love with the Lakers hard and fast, naive to the heartbreak that lied ahead. We went through our honeymoon phase, winning championships, basking in the bliss, riding the wave of euphoria and happiness. God, those feelings. Oh, to be that young again.
And then the adversity comes. You’re yelling and shouting at each other, casting blame and pointing your finger at anything and everyone but yourself (or in the case with the Lakers, screaming at the television when the outcome doesn’t go the way you want it to). In a way, it’s funny looking back at it all, how we allowed people and things out of our control to dictate what our emotions would be, how our day would be, what our destinies would look like.
When Kobe Bryant retired, it was more than just a Lakers game. It symbolized so many things for me: all the failed romantic relationships, never pursuing basketball or my dreams serious enough, watching so many games in the wee hours of the night, the relationship with my dad that I never had the chance to experience. It was more than just putting an orange ball through a basket. It was the end of my first life, and all of those beautiful memories, experiences and relationships that came with it.
But I’m starting to fall in love with the Lakers again. As of writing this, they are only a half-game out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the ultra-competitive Western Conference. Yes, I know, it’s only November, not even a quarter of way into the season. But they have that certain something about them that is pulling me in like they did almost 20 years ago.
For all the flack that Lonzo Ball has received, whether it’s his unorthodox jump shot, his perceived aloofness and passive nature, and of course his obtuse but supportive father Lavar taking up most of the spotlight, he has “quietly” averaged a 9/7/7 stat line to start the season, with two triple doubles already to his name. Sure, his shooting percentage of 31% is poor and is the worst on the team, but his fingerprints are all over the game every night. Jason Kidd, a player that Lonzo has been compared to early on, was a poor outside shooter early in his career, and he ended up being one of the top three-point shooters to ever play. It’s still early for Lonzo, but he will continue to get better as long as he keeps staying aggressive.
One of the biggest surprises though is the Lakers fellow rookie, Kyle Kuzma. He leads the team in scoring at 16.8 PPG, with a 22 PPG average on 49% shooting over the past five games. As a late first round draft pick, he has taken advantage of extended playing time due to the injury to another young player, Larry Nance Jr, and it doesn’t look like he will be losing his starting spot when he returns.
Brandon Ingram has also stolen my heart. With a wire-like frame reminiscent to Kevin Durant, he has become a de-facto closer in crunch-time situations for the Lakers, being one of the few players on the squad that can consistently create his own shot or get to the free throw line, leading the team with 4.7 attempts/game. He still has a ways to go to fill into the Durant comparisons, but he’s a confident young player who isn’t afraid to take the big shot when the game is on the line.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, the Lakers biggest free agent acquisition this summer, leads the team in steals at 1.65 per game, and is the scrappy defender that brings toughness and energy to the starting line-up. Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson, the Lakers super-subs off the bench, have embraced their sixth man roles and have some of the top PER ratings on the team, providing toughness and offensive sparks for the second unit. Even Brook Lopez, who came over in the D’Angelo Russell trade, has been a staple at the center position, starting in every game so far while expanding his range to the three point line, too.
We have no idea what this team will look like come next year. But so far this season, the Lakers have brought a level of energy and excitement that has been lacking for so long. They are competitive, feisty, and play hard. There’s no way you could honestly say that over the past four seasons.
No reason is needed for loving someone or something. For many reasons, the Lakers had stolen my heart and many others over the years, and even though they have broke them so many times before, the love for them never went away. It was only dormant, waiting for the next wave of young players to revive it once again.
It’s finally back. There will be many ups and downs, highs and lows, successes and failures with this team. And it’ll never be the same as the first time. But it’s not suppose to be.
The Lakers are a roller coaster ride that I’ll always sign up for. I just can’t help it. Because I loved falling in love with you the first time. And I’m doing it again.