After becoming one of the biggest fan favorites in recent years for the Lakers, Alex Caruso’s departure this offseason was met with a mixture of frustration and sadness. Caruso’s rise from the G League to x-factor in a title-winning team cemented his status as a folk hero in Lakers lore.
However, to the Lakers front office, that wasn’t worth offering a competitive contract to him this summer as he departed during free agency to join the Bulls. On Monday, Chicago visited the Staples Center for the second time in as many nights to take on the Lakers, marking Caruso’s return to the team and fanbase that adored him.
The fans roared at the announcement of his name in the pregame introductions and the team honored him with a tribute video that ended with a standing ovation for Caruso and an embrace with former teammate LeBron James. After the game, Caruso spoke with Melissa Rohlin of Fox Sports and talked about what that moment from the crowd reaction to the hug with James meant to him.
“When you’re chasing a championship together, there’s a special bond that you create going through adversity, finding your way together,” he said. “Just the admiration I have for him as a player, as a person, for him to show me that love just doubles down on the relationship we have.”
With the Lakers being blown out in the fourth quarter of the game, James left the bench early to return to the locker room and was seemingly giving shoutouts to Caruso on Twitter the moment the game went final.
There is a bond amongst the players of title-winning teams that lasts forever, particularly a title under the circumstances the Lakers won their’s inside the bubble. On top of that, Caruso and James became a remarkably impactful duo together that also linked them together during their time in Los Angeles.
Regardless of where his career might take him in the coming years and which franchises he plays for, Caruso is always going to be a fan favorite. His ascension from prospect to NBA champion is one that all franchises hope their young players can take.
But it sure would be nice if Caruso did come home sometime in the future and have another stint with the Lakers so those roars from the fans were on a nightly basis and not for a visiting opponent.