So I have been working on this piece since the Blazers beat the Celtics earlier this season. I wanted to share what may be a different perspective from a Blazer fan who arrived here in a different fashion.
First, of all, as the title suggests, my formative years were spent throughout Southern California as a fan for the Showtime dynasty of the 80’s. I was a fan of all the LA sports team as kids tend to be fans of their home town team. Plus, it was easy to like home teams when win multiple championships in each professional sport.
I was just a kid and as I grew up and the 90’s brought change to those LA teams. Magic Johnson was always my favorite player, and it was tough how he left the game. Since I am bookish (coughcoughNERDcough), I spent my teen and early adult years in the mid-90’s gradually caring less and less about sports. It again didn’t hurt that every LA team sucked through most of the 90’s (and entirely by the mid-90s). By the time I graduate college, my childhood favorites: the L*kers become relevant again in the NBA and look out… there I am with a ready-made band wagon to jump on and enough childhood friends and an older brother who were very go-Lakers all-the-way all-the-time.
But I couldn’t get into it.. I didn’t (and don’t) like Shaq or Kobe.. and Phil bothered me as I always blamed (perhaps irrationally) losing what basketball meant to me as a child on the Bulls in the 90’s. It was also part of something bigger. Time away from being a fan and the sentiment following the NBA strike season made it easy to continue ignoring sports. I do not know all of the reasons, but I didn’t and never could find any emotional connection between the L*kers of the past decade and the team I loved growing up..
In 2001, I moved to Portland for graduate school. I grew to love watching basketball again. It started due to scientific interest and I quickly realized that I loved watching and analyzing basketball regardless of what I knew about the players but could not find the interest to watch other sports. I found that I didn’t even need to be a fan of any team to enjoy watching basketball and began watch more and more basketball.
By the time December 9, 2004 came around, I was in prime shape to see my first game at the Rose Garden, and my first live pro NBA game since the GW Forum in 1991. I wasn’t really a Blazer fan yet.. at the time I just wanted to watch an NBA basketball game. And what a game it was.. they were down by one point with barely any time left and Shareef hit a three pointer off the inbounds. Apparently, the Blazers had 62 rebounds that game and according to this it was the last game a Celtic opponent got 60+ rebounds. It was also the last time the Blazers beat the Celtics (definitely in the RG, possibly at all?) until this season, which is why I started this post after the win against the Celtics.
Needless to say, I got the experience a whole lot of home crowd good vibes in that game. I went to a couple games the next season and really liked the direction the team seemed to be heading even though that was the brutal 21 win season. I bought a quarter season pack in Roy’s rookie season, and loved watching LMA and Roy grow to be able to more than make up for getting rid of Zach in just their second years. Became a season ticket holder following the winning of the draft lottery and continue to be. I brought my parents, sister, and wife into Blazermania and now it is one of the most dominant topics of conversation. We annoy the heck of my still L*ker loving older brother and several old time friends with the fact that we join in with the ‘Beat LA’ chanting.
So why did I write this? I wanted to share my story and a unique perspective on the development of this team and the dual importance of winning AND how you play the game. I grew up loving my winning home team but eventually wanted no part of my ex-home team (despite three-peat’n success). Yet I grew to love the game and it was through love of the game that I found a home team in my new home town.
It is easy to worry about whether or not they are wasting opportunities to win more now, but I have completely enjoyed this journey. It began with enjoying the game, then respecting the organization, then liking the team that was being put together.. and now..