I was a LeBron fan before most of you had heard of him. I was a Laker fan before a lot of you were born.
I’m still trying to figure out whether I’m a fan of Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James.
This ridiculous and possibly unique conundrum traces back to a couple of factors. One is personal: Born and raised in Southern California, I came of age as a sports fan just as the Showtime Lakers came together to play the best and most entertaining basketball of the NBA’s greatest decade. Like most SoCal kids of that era, I was obsessed with those squads. I had no reason to imagine I wouldn’t be a diehard Laker fan for life.
The other factor is (mostly) professional: In 1999, I brought my Laker fandom to SLAM, just in time to catch Shaq and Kobe at their dysfunctional, dominant peak. That early 2000 Laker dynasty was often silly and occasionally embarrassing, but as a forum-blue-blooded fan, I loved it regardless. But then the dynasty fizzled, and as I stayed at SLAM and saw first-hand how the NBA sausage gets made, it became harder and harder for me to root for a team — and for that team in particular. For a lot of reasons, I fell out of love with L.A.
In the midst of all that, I met this kid from Akron.