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Faith: Relive The Lakers' Game 7 Win Through The Eyes And Heart of a Fan

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We're not losing this game.

It started at the end of the 1st quarter. The Los Angeles Lakers were down 23-14. They had just produced one of the worst quarters of basketball of their season, and had done so on the biggest stage. The details, provided by some guy in a suit who walked by passing out stat sheets, nearly made me sick. 22% shooting. 25% FT shooting. 3 turnovers. 0.67 points per possession.  Two fouls on Pau Gasol.  If ever, in the history of Game 7's, a team has looked more negatively affected by the moment, please educate me.

That's when C.A. the blogger left Staples Center, and was replaced by Chris the die-hard Lakers fan.  My fandom is not of the run-of-the-mill variety.  The truth is, I don't like watching games about teams I care about with other people.  I don't like game parties.  I don't invite friends over.  And I don't like going to games live.  Not because I prefer the view on my HDTV to that of the highest reaches of Staples Center (which is all I can afford when I do decide to make a pilgrimage), and not because I prefer my comfortable couch to the cramped, uncomfortable confines of arenas and stadiums.  No, I don't like going to games because there are times when I get scary.

We're not losing this game.

I scream and shout and throw things just like many red-blooded fans of many different teams. I've had more injuries due to stupid shit from sports rage than I can count. My personal favorite is when I broke my toe kicking a wall during one of those Spurs-Lakers battles of the early aughts, then got pissed off at myself for doing something so stupid, so I went and played basketball on the broken toe. I call it sports rage^2. Every home or room I've lived in since college has been left with one hole in a wall that strangely resembles a human fist. I may pride myself on being able to see things with an even keel after the fact, but in the moment, I can be one scary fan, though not in a way that is different from many of you.  Except I have an extra gear.

For rare occasions, for truly monumental moments, I flip from traditional scary fan to out and out mental patient.  You can tell when it happens because I go silent.  I stop yelling, I stop cheering.  I start staring at the action, muttering under my breath.  Last night, I flipped that switch at the end of the 1st quarter.  I stopped paying attention to our game blog.  I started staring at the court, and muttering the same phrase over and over again.

We're not losing this game. We're not losing this game.

Honestly, I'm probably lucky my row was pretty empty once again. Not even game seven could trouble the "media" from In Touch Weekly and People Magazine to come up to their assigned seats (or even show up at Staples, most likely).  If I had been surrounded by other people, I would be writing this post from a mental ward.  But the stakes were too high, and the display from my team too pathetic.  They needed my help. They needed my faith. Amped up on adrenaline and the first energy drink I've ever had, legs jittering, hands shaking, muttering under my breath.

We're not losing this game.

One of the many definitions of faith, as provided by Messrs. Merriam and Webster, is the firm belief in something for which there is no proof. Through most of last night's game, we had no proof that the Lakers were capable of winning. The groundwork for that lack of proof was laid in the abysmal first quarter.  So that's when my display of faith started.  It looked like it would be quickly rewarded, too.  The Lakers went on an 11 point run to start the 2nd quarter, taking a two point lead.  It wasn't a quick run, more the beginning of the Celtics' offensive failures which began to match our own.  If you don't score in the first 5 minutes of a quarter, chances are the other guy is going to have a double digit run going.  In any case, I was understandably feeling pretty good about the Lakers' chances in that moment.  But I did not stop.

We're not losing this game.

We're back down again. Boston just got a 4 point swing because Farmar missed a layup and Rondo made one on the other end. Kobe just missed his 2nd FT in 4 attempts. He's now 2-9 from the field, 2-4 from the stripe, and looks about as bad as I've ever seen him. Paul Pierce follows with a mid range jumper.

We're not losing this game.

It's halftime. The Celtics finished the quarter strong, building back most of their lead, and now sport a 6 point cushion. I do not get up from my seat. I do not go to the bathroom. I do not stretch my legs. I do not pay attention to the shitty dance group they trot out for halftime entertainment. I don't even look at my new 1st half and 2nd quarter stat sheets, barely remembering to mumble gratitude to the suits passing out the papers. Staring at the Laker bench, currently empty, I stay focused on the task I have chosen for myself. For 20 straight minutes.

We're not losing this game. We're not losing this game. We're not losing this game. We're not losing this game. We're not losing this game. We're not losing this game. We're not losing this game. We're not losing this game. We're not losing this game.

The third quarter couldn't have started any worse. Kobe has picked up two quick fouls (not in any foul trouble, just not a good sign) and missed 3 more 20 ft+ jumpshots, now 3-17 on the night. The Celtics have hit 3 layups and a Rondo 6 foot floater. Their lead is up to 13. At no point do I waver.

We're not losing this game. It starts right now.

The second I start muttering "It starts right now", it does start. Kobe hits a free throw (and misses another one ...), then a short jumper. Pau hits a bucket. Derek Fisher responds to a KG score with another jumper. Another stop, and LO grabs an offensive rebound off a missed layup from Ron Artest. Just like that, the lead is 6. Then Pierce responds with another 3. He seems like the only guy on either team who isn't being swallowed up whole by the pressure.

We're not losing this game.

The Lakers use another mini run to cut the lead to 4 at the end of the 3rd. Then Pau hits a jumper and the foul ... and misses the god-damned free throw. The Lakers are getting stops to start the 4th, but still cannot get ANYTHING going on offense. One possession ends in a Lamar Odom 3 pt attempt(ewww), but Pau Gasol tips the ball out to Kobe and Kobe ... lets the ball slip right out of his hands and into Rondo's. Rondo and Ray Allen start a fast break, Rondo passes to Ray. Kobe tries to shade over but gets called for the block. This is the only part of the night in which I allow doubt to creep in. Kobe just sits there on the floor beneath the basket. I've never seen him like this. He's had bad games before, maybe even worse than this on paper. But he looks ... despondent. Hopeless. As if thinking "Why is this happening to me?" I consider that perhaps it's not meant to be. Then, Jordan Farmar comes up to Kobe to help him up. Kobe doesn't let him, just sitting there, shocked. Farmar pats him on the shoulder, as if to say "You're Kobe Fucking Bryant, C'mon." and then helps Kobe up. The doubt recedes.

We're not losing this game.

Two three point plays, one via Kobe getting fouled on a 3 pt swingthrough, and one on a Ron Artest and-1, tie the score. I'm no longer muttering, instead saying the words audibly over and over again.


The crowd noise causes a rare Ray Allen missed FT, but he makes the next one, as well as two more. Then, Fisher responds with a huge 3. So far, this has played out as a classic hump game (Sorry for the Simmons reference). The Lakers have clawed their way back, but they can't seem to get over the hump and actually take the lead. After Fisher's 3, the Celtics fail to score, and on the ensuing possession, Kobe gets fouled. There's an official timeout. I'm standing now.


Kobe sinks both free throws.


... followed by a jumper, and two FTs for Pau.


The two teams exchange baskets (and by that I mean baskets for the Celtics and free throws for the Lakers) for the next three minutes, but the Lakers are firmly in control ... until Rasheed Wallace hits a 3. 3 point game, a minute left to play.


Kobe gets the ball at the elbow extended. Rasheed Wallace runs over to cover his left side, so he drives right. Ray Allen cuts him off he jumps to pass the ball, intending to go to Lamar Odom in the corner, but Paul Pierce cuts the angle off, leaving Bryant one choice - Ron Artest. The entire crowd gasps. You can see Kobe gesturing "Don't shoot it, Don't shoot it". Artest takes a jab step, steps back, rises up, and launches. Despite being up in the nosebleeds, I swear I could hear the patented Mike Breen "BANG!!!" from my seat.


After bottling it up for most of the night, partly out of respect for my place in the press section, and partly because I was so single mindedly focused on willing my team to victory, the floodgates of my emotion finally give way as I raise my arms to the heavens and unleash a yell much like a war cry.

There was no more muttering, no more steely gaze. The Celtics would go on to hit two more 3's but it was too late. The Lakers sealed the win, and the championship, with a few more free throws, the last two symbolically canned by Sasha Vujacic, vanquishing the ghosts of 2008 for good. The game ended, my faith was fully and finally rewarded, but my emotion was put on hold. There was work to do. I had an experience to capture for you. I ran down the stairs to the floor to get the best possible view for the presentation of awards, but I was not allowed on the court. So I ran back up to the Main floor and started capturing as much video and sound as possible, as the crowd celebrated the repeat championship.

The next two hours passed by in a whirlwind, and I'll have a full post devoted to the postgame experience later. By the time I left Staples, the areas around the arena had already been cleared by the police, who declared the mob an unlawful assembly. The walk to my car felt like I was walking through a warzone. There were trucks with 20-30 cops holding on to the outside driving by, and helicopters buzzing around overhead. I saw no evidence of violence, but let's just say I now understand the fear of martial law. I was too concerned with getting myself home in one piece to consider what happened.

At 11:47 PM, roughly 3 hours after the game ended, I arrived back at my apartment in Long Beach. Emotionally drained and physically exhausted, I finally allowed the totality of the moment sink in. For two straight hours, from the end of the 1st quarter to the moment that will live on in Queensbridge lore forever, I did not watch a basketball game. Instead, I participated in a religious experience. My faith never waivered, but for the briefest of moments, and I will believe forever that the power of that faith contributed to the Lakers victory.

Overcome with emotion, I kicked off my shoes, went directly to my bed, took my sleeping wife in my arms, and wept.

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