History is written by the victors, and now that the Los Angeles Lakers are NBA champions once again, they get to tell their story. It’s something the team hasn’t done a ton of this year, but now that they’ve proven they were the best team in the league, they’re ready to air their grievances and take their shots.
The biggest verbal subtweet so far comes to us courtesy of an anonymous Lakers executive, speaking to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN, and you can probably take a guess from the headline and their word choice who they’re talking about (emphasis mine):
Said one senior Lakers executive: “While some of our so-called rivals spent literally hundreds of millions of dollars trying to win media cycles, we kept our heads down and focused on basketball — because the only thing we’ve ever cared about winning is championships.”
Hmmmm.... Who could they be talking about. Which team was a “so-called rival” to the Lakers this year, and spent gobs of cash trying to win media cycles? Could it be the Lakers’ Staples Center co-tenants who blew a 3-1 lead and their chance to actually face their big brother in the conference finals? The team that plastered tacky slogans like “streetlights over spotlights” all over billboards, buses and benches around the city of Los Angeles, or sent jerseys and other goodies to media members covering the team? The organization that constantly weaponizes targeted leaks to curry favor with league insiders — and then gets credit for how smart their organization is — and for their willingness to spend to win despite never having actually won anything?
You know, the LA Clippers?
A lot of people have misinterpreted this as a shot at the Clippers for signing Kawhi Leonard and Paul George — both of whom the Lakers have also pursued in the past — but if I had to bet my money on it from conversations with people on the team all year and just using critical thinking, I’d imagine this was much more them laughing at the idea that Steve Ballmer could throw mounds of cash to buy the city of Los Angeles’ love through visibility and favorable coverage, vs. a shot at the Clippers for signing good players.
And as someone who lives minutes away from the UCLA Health Training Center, I also know that the placement of a prominent Clippers billboard right near the freeway change to get to the Lakers’ practice facility was something that the team mocked for its corniness at the time, and can probably outright laugh at now.
The thing is, as much money as Ballmer spends to try and get people to care about the Clippers, the reality is that Lakers fandom is something most are born with in this city and the surrounding eras. If the Clippers are going to make inroads on winning over Los Angeles, it’s something that would take decades, if it’s even possible. No Laker fan is going to raise their kid to root for the Clippers — and certainly not now that Lakers exceptionalism has made its triumphant return, alongside a 17th banner.
So the Clippers can try to win media cycles. Lord knows it worked at times this year. But as Jeanie Buss likes to say, “you don’t run a team by responding to people on social media. You do the work, and the proof is in the work.” The Lakers put their heads down and followed that mantra this year, and it paid off. So now they get to take their subtle jabs, and see if the Clippers can do the work to respond. It almost certainly can’t go worse than their playoff run this year.