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With the NBA Finals only hours away, and with Lakers reporters acting beyond childish, it is time to resurrect the Top 5 reasons for Boston Celtics fans to hate all things Los Angeles Lakers.
Kobe Bryant is an awesome basketball player. The NBA’s best player debate is a two-man race between him and LeBron James. Bryant differentiates himself in two key categories; titles and hateability. Detractors will point to the fact that Kobe Bryant jerseys are consistently among the best-selling jerseys in America, year after year. In the NFL, Brett Favre achieves the same honor and people hate Brett Favre. With great power comes great responsibility, and with great talent comes an even greater stable of haters. For all his waffling, Favre may not deserve it, but Bryant does.
Take for example his nickname, The Black Mamba. Nicknames are usually earned, unless of course you are Kobe Bryant. In that case, you simply concoct a neat-sounding nickname and repeat it enough until it sticks. It doesn’t even make a heck of a lot of sense, except that Bryant is indeed a snake. Watch his interaction with his teammates. If they mess up, he’ll embarrass them the way Dan Marino used to when he would berate his wide receivers. Nothing is ever his fault. He has improved upon this in recent years, but nobody would ever want a teammate like that. His scowling and lip-licking are equally as contrived. He knows the camera is fixated on him, and he gives the viewers the character that they want. His superior ability makes it that much easier. People always hate the best.
Oh yeah. Did I mention that little trial in Colorado in 2004?
The Staples Center will never be The Forum which could never be Madison Square Garden. (I fully realize that Boston’s own arena is named after MSG, but that does little to help my argument and will be therefore ignored.) In a place packed full of stars, they dim the exterior lights (a la MSG) so that the players can shine. It doesn’t matter. The Staples Center is a place to see and be seen, that a basketball game might break out is secondary. Though they ramp up their enthusiasm for the playoffs, I would never take gambling advice from Dyan Cannon. Sully from Southie, however, could probably make you a very rich man.
In New England, we complain about the weather. A lot. Step inside any Dunkin’ Donuts at any given time, and someone will be complaining. “You believe this weather?” they say. And yes, I do, it was the same as last year and the year before that.
These are conversations that never take place in Los Angeles, because the weather is always the same. Sunny. Warm. Smog aside, it leaves little to be desired. Back in Boston, particularly during the inertia of winter, the thought of the NBA Finals is a welcome one on many levels. For one, championships are always a blast. It is like the circus has come to town, complete with a parade in tow. Beyond that, playing for a title means playing through June, which, in December can be a powerful escape for Boston fans. It may sound silly, but when you’re stuck shoveling out a 4’x8′ parking spot for the umpteenth time, any thought of June is a welcome one. Los Angelinos will never understand that.
It is difficult to find fault with Zen master Phil Jackson, but Bostonians are afforded a built-in reason for hatred due to his endless comparisons to the great Red Auerbach. With last season’s title, Jackson surpassed Auerbach’s record of 9 titles and immediately donned an extremely self-promotional hat with an X on the front, the roman numeral for 10.
While Red’s infamous victory cigar irked many, it was never about him. The cigar signified a victory for the team, the same way a proud parent would light up an “It’s a boy!” cigar in the waiting room during those halcyon days of smoking in hospitals. Overall it smacks of an incredibly selfish gesture, particularly seconds after your team just reached the pinnacle of their profession, their hours of hard work rewarded in victory. It completely contradicts everything teamwork stands for. At the very least, it serves as a thinly veiled referendum on who Jackson thinks deserves the most credit. I’m sure Commissioner David Stern was also thrilled that he refused to wear one of the league sanctioned NBA Champions hats, plastered with official logos.
The fact that he has been photographed with Paris Hilton is annoying enough. He’s tangled with fellow countryman Goran Dragic and taken kitschy pictures leaning on his Mercedes-Benz. Bill Simmons has likened his appearance to that of a movie villain (he’s right). His real name isn’t even Sasha, it is Aleksander. Those characteristics are enough to never want to share the same air as this guy, but, believe it or not, there is more.
He was one of the more noticeable members of the Lakers’ bench when the Celtics last faced the Lakers for an NBA title. He was also one of the most vocal. After the Celtics whipped the Lakers in the 2008 NBA Finals, Vujacic had a difficult time keeping his Slovenian trap shut when asked about his cross-court rivals. When Christmas rolled around that year, Vujacic couldn’t resist linking the holiday to the Boston five. Christmas colors are famously red and green, but Vujacic only sees one color. “There’s red, yes?” Vujacic said and therein swore off wearing green ever again. This is something I might expect from a four-year-old, but clearly, Vujacic is just obsessed with Boston. Don’t expect to see a lot of court time for Vujacic, as he only averages 8.6 minutes per game. He is essentially being paid $5 million per year to hang out in Los Angeles for 8 months. His limited role will do nothing to temper his cheerleading however, so expect to be furious with him and his irksome facial expressions before the first quarter of Game 1 is even over.