Staples Center may have been rocking for Kobe Bryant’s academy award winning 60-point career finale in the Los Angeles Lakers last game of the season, but that wasn’t the case for the majority of the season.
That aforementioned win over the Utah Jazz was just the Lakers’ 17th victory of the year, and while there were plenty of fans showing up or tuning in for parts of the Kobe Farewell Tour, it didn’t feel anything like Wednesday night.
The Lakers’ 120-114 victory over the Houston Rockets on opening night wasn’t a coronation, but it was an unmistakable decree: the Lakers may not be good defenders as a whole, they may not have enough talent to win more than they lose, but they are going to be competitive, and more importantly, they are going to be fun.
The amount of times the former could be said last season was few, and the amount of times the latter was an accurate descriptor was even fewer. Whether it was the sad experience of watching Kobe chuck shots while the team’s future served as spectators in jerseys, or listening to the team’s former head coach throw those players under the bus after the game, there wasn’t a lot to be excited about in Laker Land last season.
As soon as this year’s Lakers kids shook off the cobwebs that allowed Houston to rip off a 14-6 run to start, D’Angelo Russell gave the first clue that these Lakers just might be the type of cult classic that social-media consuming fans can get behind:
A player cursing while making direct eye contact with the viewer through the camera? Check. The broadcast team uncomfortably trying to think of sanitized alternatives to what he just yelled at them repeatedly? Check. Thousands of people tripping over each other to share these moments? Check and check.
This is Denzel Washington’s sh*t:
Denzel - "That's my guy right there" pic.twitter.com/AkzYw2JhE3— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) October 27, 2016
This is this Lakers Bro’s sh*t:
Bro-iest Lakerbro since the original Lakerbros Lakerbro'd pic.twitter.com/GjkXTDNwge— SB Nation GIF (@SBNationGIF) October 27, 2016
This is all of our sh*t.
Watching the Lakers play against the Rockets while keeping an eye on social media was akin to what I imagine a middle-aged man must feel like at a Justin Bieber concert: there is lots of enthusiastic slang, hype, and disbelief being thrown around in ecstasy over every little thing, and it’s coming across too fast to make any sense of it.
“ZOMG RUSSELL [fire emojis]”
“WHOA DID YOU SEE WHAT RANDLE JUST DID??”
In other words, the Lakers turn the grown men and women you follow into the Basketball Twitter equivalent of Beliebers for a few hours.
It was all on display on Wednesday night, and what’s not to like? The Lakers are dunking. The Lakers are throwing up ridiculous heaves to draw four-point plays. The Lakers are moving the ball. The Lakers have freaking 6’9” Brandon Ingram playing point guard... and it’s kind of working!
The fun doesn’t stop when the game is over, either. This team is endlessly quotable/tweetable/memeable:
Clarkson walked out of the Lakers locker room yelling toward Young: "Nick about to be Defensive Player of the Year!"— KEVIN DING (@KevinDing) October 27, 2016
Luke Walton was jokingly asked if he will give a word of encouragement to Steve Kerr: "No. He'll be just fine."— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) October 27, 2016
But while it’s great to enjoy the moment, it’s also important to remember not to let expectations get out of whack. This team is still going to lose a lot of games, and as fun as this is, we can’t get carried away with one win. The Lakers understand that.
Julius Randle said the Lakers weren't going to get too high over their win. "It’s just one game," he said. "It’s not the dang Super Bowl."— Bill Oram (@billoram) October 27, 2016
That being said, it was pretty super.
You can follow this author on Twitter at @hmfaigen.