Spurs fans hate the Lakers. It's just a thing.
The rivalry could've started when Shaq called David Robinson “The Little Mermaid.” It definitely grew like an itchy fungus with the .4 incident. Yes, even after hoisting five banners, it still hurts. We also endured Kobe Bryant describing the AT&T Center as a “big barn.” O.K., the last part is kind of true, but to be fair, we do host a big ass rodeo in there. Regardless, Kobe came into the league a year before Duncan and we had a solid rivalry for most of their careers. That is, until the Lakers sucked, and we didn’t.
When Kobe Bryant announced his retirement, I'll admit my first reaction was, “Bye Felicia.” But then I got whiplash from the pull of nostalgia. And here’s why:
- Kobe spent 20 years on the same team. In a league of taking your talents to the city with the most toys, I appreciate guys like Kobe and Duncan who have some loyalty. Sure, Kobe was always well paid and enjoyed the benefits of playing in La-La Land, but I like that his career in jerseys doesn’t look like a crayon box.
- He grew up. He acted like a major dick for most of his career and people hate working with him, I get it. But you try starting a career at 17 and being thrust onto the biggest stage before they’ve both dropped. Kobe may not be the nicest guy on the court, but I don’t easily make friends with coworkers either. It’s hard to remember that basketball is just a job for him. He’s also kept his nose clean for years. Whether he actually behaves, or is just better at hiding random booty, he hasn’t done anything shady in a long time. It’s been years since I walked past a hotel chair and thought of the Black Mamba. Pardon the obvious innuendo.
- Numbers don’t lie. As a basketball fan, it’s hard to argue with the dude’s career: 5 NBA titles, 17 All-star appearances (second to Kareem), 12 NBA all-defensive teams (second to Duncan), 9 first-team selections (tied with M.J.), and he’ll retire the third-leading scorer in NBA history.
I know Spurs fans have a hard time cutting anyone slack because we have the best guys ever. Our roster makes the average fan forget that lots of pros are spoiled and lack direction. But it must be hard to become an accountable adult when every problem disappears, poof, like LeBron’s chalk. Something should be said for those who actually make it happen.
I’ll miss Kobe’s buzzer beaters and angry swagger. I'll miss the dreaded post-season match-ups and the obnoxious number of Lakers fans in our barn.But that’s probably because the era is ending and Timmy will be soon to follow. Either way, happy trails, Mr. 81.