With the active portion of the NBA offseason coming to a close (for some teams), SB Nation's network of basketball bloggers is teaming up to keep things spicy with some semi-regular network-wide discussion of appropriate topics. Today's topic: Everybody's Favorite Cult Players.
With the Los Angeles Lakers, as with any NBA team or sports franchise, has fans. With the Los Angeles Lakers, as with any NBA team or sports franchise also has FANS. If you are reading these words, chances are you are part of the latter group. But often, in the course of normal human social activity, you will meet or be introduced to new people who are also fans of the same teams you are a fan of. And in those circumstances, it can be tough to know the difference between the fans and the FANS. After all, any two-bit schmuck can buy a jersey or hang a flag on the side of their car. You could get into a deep discussion about the strategy of the game, but that isn't always appropriate. So the best way to separate out the folks who like a team with the ones who live and breathe it is to test their knowledge of the cult classics.
Every team has a few. Players who are beloved for reasons that stray far from the usual ones. These guys aren't stars. They don't score a lot of points. They are not integral to the team's performance. Hell, most of them barely even play. And yet, for the diehards, the back end of blowout contests provide the rare opportunity to see their cult heroes perform.
The Lakers have had their fair share over the years. Travis Knight ... Mark Madsen ... DJ Mbenga ... but when some of my peers at SB Nation asked for us to choose one to highlight, there was only ever going to be one choice. The Man, The Myth, The 'Stache: Adam Morrison.
Adam Morrison came to the Lakers via a trade towards the end of the 2009 season. The play of Trevor Ariza made Vlad Radmonovic's large contract one the Lakers no longer wanted to possess, so they shopped around and found a willing taker in the Charlotte Bobcats. In return for the spacey but effective distance shooter, the Lakers picked up some guy named Shannon Brown, and the former #3 pick in the 2006 NBA Draft, one Adam Morrison.
As it turns out, Brown ended up being far and away the better player. His elite athleticism and jaw dropping dunks made him a fan favorite before the 2008 season ended. Over the next two seasons, Morrison played in just 39 games for the Lakers, and his brief appearances were almost exclusively in garbage time of big wins and losses. More than any other member of the team, Adam Morrison became synonymous with game over, doubling as both the human victory cigar and the human white flag.
Why does Adam Morrison have such an iron grip on our hearts? Maybe it's because of his flowing locks (which were very sadly discarded in the 2009 offseason). Maybe its because of LA's history with Morrison, who is perhaps best known nationally for breaking into tears with a couple seconds left on the clock as the local collegiate squad from UCLA completed an epic comeback in the 2006 NCAA Tournament. Or maybe it's because he was the ultimate good luck charm - the fact may be random but is no less fact: Kobe Bryant and the Lakers have won exactly zero championships after the Shaq era without Adam Morrison on the roster.
It could be any of that, but the most likely reason is that Adam Morrison is just a goofy mo fo. He looks goofy. He plays goofy. He acts goofy. But beneath that goofy facade lies a killer, ready to rip your heart out, drop 30 points and, in what will forever go down as his greatest achievement in purple and gold, he will steal your high fives.
For that moment alone, Adam Morrison deserves the title of Los Angeles Lakers Cult Classic.