By Shaymus McLaughlin
It’s now been over a week since the Los Angeles Lakers won the NBA championship, their 15th overall as a franchise, and I’m still not sure how I feel about it. As a sports fan, it’s certainly a wonderful story. Kobe was finally able to win without the great Shaq-Fu, Phil Jackson jumped ahead of Red Auerbach for the most NBA titles, Lamar Odom was able to overcome his odious candy addiction and provide great play in the Finals, Pau won his first championship, and Derek Fisher achieved a scientific breakthrough- bringing himself back from the dead after flat-lining for 82 straight regular season games.
Here’s my problem: I’m a Minnesotan at heart, and I can’t get over the fact that the Lakers used to be ours. That should be 15 championships for the Minneapolis Lakers, not the Los Angeles “We don’t actually have any lakes” Lakers.
Should I be happy that the team with strong ties to my home state won again? Maybe I should, but I simply can’t. It’s like trying to root for your ex-girlfriend, who hit the dating scene with consistent success right after the break-up and is now married to a ridiculously rich and handsome guy, and the couple have nothing but great memories that nobody will stop talking about. Meanwhile, 30 years later you’re still trying to reclaim what was lost with a girl who can’t do anything right (Really, Timberwolves!?! $48 million for Marko Jaric? Really?!)
To be perfectly honest, I think I would be legitimately happy for the Lakers if it weren’t for one big thing:
We Minnesotans don’t get any credit here, and frankly, we should. Not even a mention from fans, sports channels, columns, articles…nobody. It’s like the Lakers’ humble Midwest roots have been overshadowed by the glitz and glamour of L.A., and now nobody even knows the beginnings of the Lakers’ rich history.
Nobody mentions that, of the Lakers’ 15 total championships, five of them came while the Lakers were still in Minneapolis. That’s a third of the Lakers’ rings. And not only that, we managed to get those five championships in just six years! The only other professional basketball team that can match the Minneapolis Lakers’ pace is Bill Russell’s Celtics (who won eight in a row starting in 1959, just a few years after Minneapolis won its last NBA title… and yes, I’m still slamming my head into the desk after writing that).
We were the first repeat champions (1949 and 1950), had one of the first franchise players in George Mikan, won the first ever NBA Championship after the NBL and BAA merger in 1949, and accomplished three titles in a row from 1952 to 1954. This run established the Minneapolis Lakers as the first NBA dynasty. We have six players and one coach in the Hall of Fame, despite existing for only twelve years. Think about it: We pumped out Hall of Famers like Tyler Perry pumps out underwhelming movies. It’s a nearly unprecedented pace.
Yet NOBODY EVER MENTIONS any of this. When Lakers history is discussed, people talk about Magic Johnson, Kobe, Jerry West, Kareem, Wilt Chamberlain, Pat Riley… all from their time in L.A. Never do we hear about Jim Pollard or Vern Mikkelsen.
The Lakers were conceived, born, and raised by Minnesota. The LA Lakers are essentially Minnesota’s child. In real life, when a child grows up and has success as an adult, people always give some credit to the parents. “You must have been raised well,” they say. The Lakers were raised as well as any child or team could hope for. Minnesotans threw their support behind the team for many years, and the Minneapolis Lakers responded by doing the only thing that fans truly ask for: win championships.
Now, every time I hear the name LA Lakers, I can’t help but cringe a little bit. The fact that they retained the name Lakers, despite the obvious lack of lakes in the area, just feels like rubbing salt on the wound. Remember that ex-girlfriend from earlier? Imagine if the ridiculously rich and handsome guy she married was a movie star, so her name was constantly coming up in the news. That’s how it feels when I hear someone talk about the LA Lakers.
I wasn’t even around for those early titles, so it’s not that I’m bitter. Ok, maybe I am a little bit. But I can’t help it, and I don’t blame any other Minnesotan if they feel the same way. It’s a parent’s natural instinct to hope their child succeeds like the Los Angeles Lakers have, but it’s also natural to want them around forever. Especially so when they reach the nearly unprecedented heights that the L.A. Lakers have. But just like in your personal life, you should never forget where the foundation for the future success was initially laid.