The end was like the beginning and like places in-between; a season of sections and distractions, of poetry and hero stances and the flipping of a switch that had grown old and unreliable. A month ago I wrote, "there's been three four-game skids now and we're all just rolling the dice that it doesn't happen in a seven game series." And so the season coughed and sputtered and spun on its haunches before settling down to die, looking at us one last time, asking if it was okay to go now. It was.
Danny Chau penned a piece that likened the end to a melting sun. Darius Soriano wrote about disappointment turning to reflection. Brian Kamenetzky invoked Japanese monster movies while brother Andy pointed out the lack of nuance in a lopsided loss. And, Dexter Fishmore described a low point in Lakers’ history. Different takes on a difficult subject, sharing the commonality of good writing. I am indebted to them and so many others, for keeping me entertained and sated over the course of a topsy-turvy season.
Somewhere in a box of photos is one of my daughter, around age 7, sitting and smiling on the couch in an over-sized Lakers yellow giveaway t-shirt. She’d watch games with me back then, awestruck at the spectacle of Shaq dunking. These days she’ll pass by and pretend interest for a few moments before heading upstairs to watch "Gossip Girl". Lily will be heading off to college in the fall. A generation has grown up during the team's Phil Jackson years.
He was a native son of the northern plains with Pentecostal ministers for parents. A counter-culture icon who remained relevant long after others faded away. His impact on the game has been enormous and even in this last numbing defeat, he is asked whether he might still come back. We need to let him go. He gave everything to the game and deserves his time in the Montana woods. Let him write another fine book. Let him hobble down to his lake and sit a spell. Old lion.
I thought I’d feel worse after such a bitter loss but I didn’t. I felt gratitude for the long, chaotic ride. I remembered the good and the bad, the championships and the losses. It ended on a low but largely, we feasted. After the game ended, I read the various recaps, opinions and comments and while some made me smile or reflect, others were venomous and left a unwanted film. That’s okay. The range of expression is as it should be.
There had been such frustration by the time Phil first arrived, a long stretch of not quite getting there. And here we are two stints later, separated by the Rudy T experiment and a book that feels prescient today. We won't see an era like this again, any time soon. It was an unlikely blending of characters and egos, talent and conflict, greatness, desire and sometimes apathy - "the switch" would become a household phrase and we had the great luxury of accepting habits that would have doomed other teams - instead our titles came fast and furious. I wouldn't change the decade for anything.
Those who’ve read this journal before know that I’m not much on analysis. There will be future entries I’m sure, about the roster, the direction and the draft. There’s basketball still to be played, a champion yet to be crowned and unfortunately, the dark specter of a work stoppage. As Jim Morrison once wrote, "the future’s uncertain and the end is always near."