I grew up in Riverside during the Magic-era "showtime" Lakers. I was a huge fan, watching games on channel 9 with Chick Hearn calling the plays. Driving into Inglewood with my dad to watch these giants (literally and figuratively) play at the fabulous Forum. I still remember the post-game interviews where Chick would ask Magic a question, and Magic always seemed to respond by flashing that million dollar smile and starting with the phrase"No question about it, Chick...".
Starting at about age five, I used to walk down the street to the playground at Alcott elementary, the home court of the Miller family, to play pickup games every day after school. Learning the game of basketball for me at that time was all about trying to imitate the creativity and exuberance that Magic Johnson brought to the game. It set the tone for my love of that approach to basketball ever since.
My family moved to the PHX area when I was 12 years old. Magic was on the decline by the time I got to PHX, and the Barkley Suns were surging. I took a lot of flack for being a Lakers fan in Phoenix, but stayed true to the purple and gold, even through the "fold like a taco" years.
As the Magic era faded into the past and Kobe became the face of the Lakers, and Steve Nash became the face of the Suns, my loyalty began to wane. I've never been a big fan of Kobe the person, though I certainly respect his dominant skills on the court. On the other hand, in my opinion Nash is the most inspiring basketball player to watch since Magic, and also one of the seemingly nicest guys you'll ever run into. I gave in to my love of great point guard play and began watching more and more Suns games and less and less Lakers games. By the first round of the 2006 playoffs, I was a bit surprised to find myself routing for the Suns in the first round against the Lakers, and what a series it was! Sorry if this brings up sour grapes for the Silver Screen & Roll crew!
It was a roller coaster ride being a Suns fan for the past seven years. Soooo much fun to watch, so creative and exhilarating, so close, and yet never quite on top. The WCF against the spurs in 2007 happened as my wife and I celebrated our 10th anniversary in Hawaii. The Robert Horry hip check actually kind of messed up my anniversary a bit (my wife, a lifelong PHX resident, also loves watching games, luckily!) :-). The Suns front office made mistake after mistake, starting with letting Joe Johnson go, and continuing from there.
Now that Nash has joined the Lakers, I've been extremely conflicted. I have no hatred for the Lakers, the team of my boyhood, but Kobe, well, he's a hard guy for me to route for. Having watched some pre-season Lakers games now, I'm putting the conflict behind me. Watching Steve Nash play with this many weapons is a basketball-lover's dream. Add to that the prospect of D12 covering for Nash's defensive weakness and becoming an even beastlier finisher than Amar'e was (imagine that!), and I'm sold.
This year, I will watch a lot of Suns games and route for them to rebuild around the exciting, young Slovenian point guard Goran Dragic. But my love of the Phoenix Suns was always a love of Steve Nash, and Steve Nash is now a Laker.
Some might call me a fair-weather fan, and maybe they're right, maybe I'm just switching around from team to team looking for a winner. But for me it's not just wanting to route for a winner. I love watching creative basketball. I watched every Suns game last year just to see what Steve Nash would do - I don't think that's fair-weather, as any true fan knows what it's like to watch a below average team can attest! I created a Poll to get your input: am I a fair-weather fan?
At the end of the day, it comes down to this: I'm a fan of the beauty of basketball played at the level of art; plays that send shivers up your spine, pick and rolls executed perfectly with a pocket pass leading to a massive dunk over the defenders' heads, fast breaks where everyone in the building falls for the look away while the point guard dishes to the other guy for an easy finish.
I was weaned on the artist called Magic. I became an adult watching the artist named Steve Nash. Honestly, I'm giddy at the the thought of the palette that Nash has this year, and so after a decade away, I'm coming home.
This one is in the icebox, the lights are off, and the eggs are cooling. I'm a Lakers fan again, and it feels good to be home.