This will not be one of those articles. This one’s from the heart.
As an extremely passionate Lakers fan, the comments from Magic Johnson bothered me on a number of levels. Magic is a Lakers legend, arguably the greatest Lakers of all-time, and he is responsible for one of the greatest dynasties the NBA has ever seen.
He will always be a part of the Lakers organization, which makes it even more difficult to comprehend why he would openly root against the Lakers, and basically endorse tanking away this season.
As a legend and ambassador (official or unofficial) for this franchise, it is important that Johnson project the standards that the Lakers represent. In no way does rooting for the team to fail represent the Los Angeles Lakers. Never has, never will.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand it. The Lakers can keep their top-5 pick and get themselves another building block like Jahlil Okafor, Karl-Anthony Towns, or Emmanuel Mudiay. I would love to see any of those guys in purple and gold. However, this notion of ‘tanking’ and rooting against the team is just fundamentally wrong to me, and something I will never get behind.
The main issue I have with those hoping the Lakers fail is that they want to have it both ways.
Somehow the Lakers are supposed to try and be as terrible as possible, get a top-5 pick, and then free agency comes and great players are going to want to come to a team with a foundation of Kobe for one more year, two rookie unknowns (counting Julius Randle as a rookie since he played in only one game), and a couple of decent role players.
That’s not how things work.
The Philadelphia 76ers are tanking.
Are the 76ers even five years away from championship contention?
Are all of their draft picks working out beautifully so far?
Do you see any free agents worth anything trying to go to Philly?
Any potential free agent is looking to go to a team that he believes can succeed with his help. Why would Kawhi Leonard, Marc Gasol, LaMarcus Aldridge, or Jimmy Butler want to leave winning situations to come to a team who isn’t trying to be their best at all times?
And one top rookie is supposed to change the view of the Lakers from the outside?
The funny thing is that people are ‘rooting for the Lakers to be bad now because they want them to be better.’ However, that plan is just as likely to make the Lakers worse for a longer period of time.
Please give me the last example of a team winning 20 games, getting a top pick, and multiple free agents signing with the team in the same off-season. Don’t worry, I’ll wait…
You’ll probably say the Cavaliers just did that, but those were extenuating circumstances. That was about LeBron returning to his hometown team, and he made sure the team worked out a deal to bring Kevin Love in as well. He doesn’t go back without knowing that Love was coming in as well.
The point I’m making is that there is no precedent for what some people are expecting to happen with this Lakers team. And no, things are not different just because we’re the Lakers. Any chance that the Lakers have of turning this franchise around quickly, does not involve trying to purposely lose now.
The worst possible thing that can happen to young players is to develop a culture of losing and to become complacent with bad and mediocre results. One thing you constantly hear around the NBA from new coaches or veteran players on new teams is changing the culture. LeBron James has said many times how some of the players in Cleveland have developed bad habits after losing for so long.
Kobe has one year left. You expect him to leave the team in the hands of guys who don’t embody everything that it means to be a Laker? Being a Laker means being the best, and accepting nothing less. Tanking isn’t in our culture and it never will be.
As fans, we have to support our teams through the good times and the bad. As Lakers fans, those bad times have been few and far between. We all want the Lakers to get back to the top as quickly as possible, but tanking away this season is the opposite of what needs to happen.
The Lakers will return to glory with the same mindset that got them there in the first place. Going that cheap route will only elongate the process even more. So to Magic and any other ‘fans’ rooting against this team, just stop. No champion ever accepts losing.
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