Wednesday, May 23, 2012

God, Love & Basketball

No Lakers games until November. It was quite interesting this year from the Chris Paul trade being vetoed, the other trades, and the suspensions that happened just made a championship run difficult. As always, it was a fun experience in this year’s Playoffs: the crazy Lakers haircut design, Round 1 Game 7, the celebration during Round 2 Game 3, but this is where another season comes to an end.

Most people don’t understand what it’s like to be a fan. You’re not a fan until you endure and take defeats like a “champ” then you have the right to talk trash and can celebrate the victories or should I say championships, five and counting to be exact just to let you know. I’ve grown with the Los Angeles Lakers because they represent my city where I grew up. They represent my family because they ALL eventually have become Lakers fans. I won’t be talking about the Lakers much during my blogs for a while, since there won’t be any news only trade rumors, until after the Olympics. Like the Lakers it is time for me to go fishing and blog about other stuff but not before I take you deep into my world where my heart is, where I call my sanctuary.

In order to understand what the Lakers or the city of Los Angeles mean to me you have to understand what basketball means to me. Basketball is life! Basketball is not a joke, and I take it very serious, sometimes too serious, but it is what defines me. Honestly, although I’m listed as 5’7” I came to the understanding that I was born to play basketball. A midget stuck in a world of giants. You see, something happened when I picked up the ball for the first time in 3rd grade that sparked my destiny. I was selected to be the “ball monitor” by my teacher and I had to issue out all the sports equipment during recess: the football, soccer ball, hand ball, etc. Being the ball monitor had its privileges and that was that I had first dibs on what I wanted to check out, and so my friends told me to get the basketball. At that time, I never had played basketball in my life, but I began to learn quickly and I fell in love (coincidence #1). Yes, for you girls, I believe in love at first sight ;) You might be surprised, but I never really had a girlfriend, and I believe it is because I am too fixated on the game. Call it an obsession, call it weird, or call it whatever you want because everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Someday a girl will understand or maybe not, but I’m happy man, and you will always find me anywhere with a grin from ear to ear feeling like a million bucks, unless it’s after a loss. I’m going off topic. “Relationships” is for a different blog. Read on…

Playing the sport led to watching the professionals on television. I grew up in the Los Angeles Lakers and Chicago Bulls era during the 80’s and 90’s. Everyone loved Magic and everyone wanted to be like Mike. The Lakers were not producing in L.A. after Magic Johnson’s shocking retirement due to the HIV virus that he contracted so it was the “Air Jordan” show for a while. In 1996 I moved to the Permian Basin and that meant I had to show my L.A. pride. I loved Jordan, but Los Angeles is what I stand for. That same year, Shaq was signed by the Lakers and Kobe Bryant was drafted from high school to the NBA. There was something about this Kobe kid that had greatness written all over him and drew early comparisons to Michael Jordan. Before I moved to Midland, Texas in 8th grade, my father bought me my first pair of Kobe Bryant shoes. Maybe it was coincidence, but I believe that it was part of the plan that I was going to take my talents to West Texas and begin a new life in Midland while Kobe began his career taking his talents to the NBA (coincidence #2).

I knew what it was like when Kobe and the Lakers were swept from the Playoffs three years in a row. Kobe was a rookie, and I was a rookie or newbie to the state of Texas trying to fit in and find an identity as an adolescent. As a student of the game I was playing for the Midland Bulldogs, whose colors by the way are purple and gold (coincidence #3). I believed in the Lakers, in the summer of 2000 before my senior year in high school the Lake Show finally became world champions, let just say it was the best summer of my life. You never forget your first. I started driving around Midland with my Lakers flag for the first time as the Lakers cruised through the NBA Playoffs again to repeat as champions in 2001. My mother and I shared a lot of time together especially during the Playoffs and the Lakers ended up winning their third championship in a row my freshman year in college in 2002. The next year just as I was going to graduate with my associate’s degree at Midland College, my mother became very ill. I did walk the stage that summer without my mother being present and sadly, the worst thing that could ever happened to a human being occurred when my mother passed away after battling cancer for almost 12 years in June 2, 2003.

I’d like to call the next couple of years of my life the “dark days” because without my mother it was difficult. After all, I was only 19 and I had to work 2-3 part-time jobs just to get by to pay my bills, my tuition and books, and attend college full-time so that I can finish my degree and be a certified teacher. To top it all off, I was having difficulty with a few people who were trying their best to make my life a living hell, but I knew that pain was only temporary and that I had a bright future ahead of me. Kobe had “dark days” of his own, when his life was forever changed because of accusation due to an incident in Colorado. No wonder the Denver Nuggets fans despise him, I guess many viewers were given more reasons to hate the player and might as well the game because they were quick to throw the stones. We weren’t going through the exact same thing, but I felt his pain, he was alone and the world wanted the best player in the game crucified (coincidence #4). I will never forget his words after showing up late to the game in Denver due to a court hearing just before the tip off only to hit the game winning shot as the final buzzard sounded. The interviewer asked him, “Kobe, how do you do it? Despite everything you’re going through, you managed to perform and pull these miracles.” Kobe responded, “I JUST THANK GOD EVERYDAY...I JUST TRUST IN GOD.” (coincidence #5)

My mother was and is my biggest inspiration in my life. She was the strongest women I know, raising 7 children, as a single parent and overcoming every obstacle that came her way, and I knew it was because of her strong faith. I used to go to church with her every Sunday and still do even if it’s alone thanks to her. I thank God every day as well for giving me so many gifts. The biggest gift of all was my angel in heaven who continues to look out for me and my brothers and sisters.

Lakers returned to the finals in 2004 and fell short to the Detroit Pistons. Their dynasty was broken up, trading Shaq, their head coach retired, and all the blame was on Kobe Bryant. The Lakers failed to make it to the playoffs in 2005 for the first time in decades. They returned to the Playoffs in 2006 and 2007 and were beaten in the first round both times by the Phoenix Suns. I graduated from UTPB in 2006 and I started a new career teaching at the school where it all began for me, San Jacinto Junior High. I chose SJ because of my history there and because they offered me to coach my favorite sport basketball (coincidence #6). Being a teacher is tough especially in middle school, and let’s put it this way that in 2006 and 2007, just like the Lakers were going through developmental years and rebuilding, I was also developing as a professional and it was challenging (coincidence #7). In 2008 I suffered the same injury as Kobe Bryant during a pickup game when I dislocated my finger and tore a few ligaments (coincidence #8). Unlike Kobe, I underwent surgery to repair the damages. Furthermore, for the first time I had an undefeated season as a basketball coach to win my 1st of 3 championships and the Lakers returned to the finals in 2008 (coincidence #9) only they fell short from the crown in an embarrassing loss to their all-time rival. They eventually won back to back titles in 2009 and 2010 avenging their 2008 loss to those green guys. I witnessed those finals live and attended both parades on Figueroa St. In 2011 and this year 2012 they were eliminated from the Playoffs in Round 2. Kobe Bryant said, 5/21/2012, after being eliminated by the Oklahoma Thunder: "Come hell or high water we're gonna be there again. It's just something about the Lakers' organization.” (coincidence #10?????) Migth be a future prediction, don't judge me, shhh!

My life has revolved somewhat around basketball, not necessarily the Lakers or Kobe Bryant, but I do keep the focus around God and what He wants for me because I’ve given my life to Him and at the end of the day, may His will be done. It is interesting that I have endured and grown with basketball and the Lakers comparing victories, defeats and injuries. I’ve gotten in fights, mostly verbal altercations all on the court, because let me tell you it’s an emotional and physical game. Anybody who plays or has played will tell you the same thing. All of that has allowed me to transition that competiveness and fight in me into my life. Basketball is a lot like life, you win some you lose some, ups and downs, good times and bad, you defend and score points, you turn it over and you assist someone, face opponents and built teammates or allies who assist you and help you get closer to the ultimate goal…I don’t know if I’ll ever play some type of pro basketball even if it’s in a minor league, I don’t know if I’ll be coaching for my entire life, but you can bet that basketball will always be in my life even if I’m a 50 year old man live at a game sitting next to Goldstein or Jack Nicholson courtside or if I’m the 50 year old man shooting baskets at a local gym or in my drive way. As long as God gives me the health and the energy, as long as it’s in His will, I will literally be facing giants on the court until the day I die. I’m always going to be the underdog that’s why people had attacked, are attacking, and will continue to attack me where my heart <3 is. It’s like attacking my Christian faith, my race, a family member, a love one, etc. and I may take it personal or I may brush it off, but just to let you know I’ll always have my guard up. I defend what I represent with my life. To me: “This is more than a game this is a passion.” Thank you for taking the time for reading. For that I love you too, almost as much as basketball.

No comments: