Graphic by staff graphic designer Sumen Imtiaz.
Disclaimer: The writer is a Los Angeles Lakers fan.
After a decade of mediocrity, the Los Angeles Lakers did it. The Lakers went through seven straight seasons without making the playoffs, with many believing that the storied franchise was in decline.
In 2018, it looked like the Lakers had a few more years before they could make a return to the playoffs. That year, LeBron James joined the team. In 2019, Anthony Davis arrived.
The arrival of both superstars also brought many new fans, most of which were fans of either LeBron or Anthony. The Lakers had finally built a contending team and were primed for their first title run since 2010 and their 17th in franchise history, tying with the Boston Celtics.
For longtime Laker fans, like Ameen Ahmed, they said they could finally rejoice after being mediocre for the past decade. Fans following LeBron James and Anthony Davis, like Ali Kamnasksh and Yusuf Hussein , they satisfied knowing their favorite player silenced the critics and won the championship.
Ahmed, 19, felt elated watching his team win the title.
A Lakers fan since 2008, he witnessed the highs and lows of the team. “The seven-year playoff drought was upsetting, but there were some bright spots,” he said.
Seeing the young players develop was fun to watch, and he enjoyed watching them play.
“I was optimistic towards the start of the season, but felt as though the Clippers had the edge on us,” he said.
As a fan that witnessed Kobe Bryant’s last two championships, he was devastated after finding out that the Laker legend had tragically passed. Despite this, he felt like the media was profiting off of his death, employing a Kobe narrative following most Laker wins.
Kamnasksh, 19, is a more recent Lakers fan.
He started supporting the Lakers once his favorite player, James, signed with them. He fell in love with James’s game, which made him start following basketball, he said.
He followed James as he went to the Heat, Cavaliers, and now Lakers, supporting him wherever he went.
As the season began, Kamnasksh felt nervous.
James was set to start one of the biggest seasons of his career. After being seriously injured for the first time in his career, James missed the playoffs in the previous season, snapping an eight-year finals streak.
Many people started believing that James was declining, while others thought he was no longer the best player in the world.
Kamnasksh wanted the veteran player to prove them wrong.
“When Kobe passed away, I was heartbroken,” he said.
He loved watching when Bryant challenged James. After Bryant’s passing, Ali knew that James had to win the title for him.
“During the last seconds of the game, I was overwhelmed with joy,” he added.
He watched every Lakers playoff game, supporting his favorite player on the road to his fourth championship.
As the final second ticked down, Ali was ecstatic that James proved his haters wrong.
Hussein, 20, said he always admired the Lakers because of their impact on the NBA.
He respected Laker legends Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal, frequently rooting for them.
This was the year he became an actual Lakers fan.
His favorite player, Davis, was traded to the Lakers; Yusuf was a fan of Davis when he was on the New Orleans’ Pelicans.
Once he found out that Davis would be teaming up with James, he said: “This is their season. They’re going to win it all.”
Throughout the season, he heard frequent jabs against the Lakers, with many stating that the Clippers would beat them. Watching the Clippers lose in the playoffs before facing the Lakers was satisfying to him.
Finding out that Bryant had unexpectedly passed also left Hussein in disbelief.
Watching the games following his death, he knew that this team would win a title for the late player.
“Going into the sixth game of the finals, I was confident that the Lakers would win, so I bet on twenty dollars on them,” Hussein said.
After halftime, he knew that the Heat had no chance at coming back. In the end, the Lakers won the championship, and proved any critics wrong and did it in honor of Bryant.
Whether they’re a newer fan or older, all Laker fans can agree that this season was a rollercoaster of emotions.
The Lakers and their fans were criticized for the majority of the season, with many not even believing that they would have made it to the finals. And after the loss of their best player in team history, Laker fans rallied and prayed that their team would capture this title to honor Bryant. And that they did.