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Laker Nation is out in full force as usual during this time of the year. As the Lakers are making a run at their 15th NBA Title, their fans are worked up in frenzy.
The excitement is very evident in the black community, where Laker flags are flying on cars, the bootleggers are up and down Crenshaw Blvd. selling Laker merchandise, and families are glued to their television sets on game day. The Lakers have become a part of our everyday lives, well, at least late fall through the spring.
"The Lakers are like a part of the family," said Neva Netherly, life long Lakers fan. "When I was growing up we'd have Sunday dinner and then watch the Laker game."
The Lakers have a long and rich tradition here in Los Angeles, and many members of the Laker Nation have been fans since before they can remember.
"I can remember hearing Chick Hearns voice when I was three years old," Kenny Hunt said. "I was born and raised in Los Angeles and I've never cheered for another team. I have a lot of memorable moments being at the Fabulous Forum and Staples Center. The Lakers coming back against Boston in the Finals, partying on Crenshaw when they beat the Sixers, Robert Horry's 3-pointer, Kobe's ally-oop to Shaq and the parade at Staples while Chick was still here."
Laker fans have been called "Hollywood" and phony, but that is just not the case. A lot of stars attend the games, but most of the fans at Staple Center are normal everyday people. Many fans will pay over $100 a ticket just to sit in the nose bleeds. There is nothing phony about those fans.
Most fans do not attend games often, but that does not mean that the Lakers do not have die hard fans.
"I catch the watch the games where I can the most, at home," Hunt said. "If I'm not at home I'll catch the game where ever I am, even if I'm in the TV department at Best Buy."
Laker fans have had to learn to roll with the punches. Even though the team has won 14 NBA Titles, they have also lost in the NBA Finals 15 times. But that's nothing to be a shamed about. Out of 61 NBA Finals that have been played, the Lakers have been in 29 of them. The Lakers worst decade was in the 1990s, when they failed to win a title. But the Lakers qualified for the playoffs nine times, appeared in the Western Conference Finals twice, and the NBA Finals once. That would be a great decade for most NBA teams.
But the Laker haters will tell you a different story. Seems like the Laker haters come out the wood work anytime the Lakers are on the verge of greatness, and there are a lot of them here in Los Angeles.
"I started hating the Lakers when I was five years old," said Andre Hemphill. "As I got older I realized that I just did not like the team at all and when Showtime began, the hater in me rised!"
It seems like the true measure of the greatness of a sports team is how many people hate them. The Yankees, Cowboys, UCLA and Duke basketball, USC and Notre Dame football, and a hand full of other teams, probably have more fans that hate them than love them. Everybody hates a winner, and the Lakers have won so much that they get hated from all angles.
"I tell Laker haters all day if we were not that good you guys would not have anything to hate about," Hunt said. "If it were the Clippers, with no championship history, there would be nothing to hate. People hate greatness."
The losses are tough to take, not just because of the Laker haters. After a loss, like in Game 1 against the Houston Rockets, it is tough to even turn on the local radio stations. Die hard fans just do not want to hear anything about the game.
"It's tough because you expect so much," Tina Divina said. "You talk your trash to the haters, then you gotta suck it up. But it is early in the series, and the Lakers are finishers!"
The Lakers had a set back, but Laker Nation can still feel the NBA Title coming back to Los Angeles.