Beliefnet
Mark D. Roberts

I’m taking a short timeout from my series on illegal immigration to share some moral confusion.

The L.A. Lakers just won the NBA championship. But I don’t quite know how to feel. Here’s why:

I grew up as a die-hard Laker fan. It was the 60s, and the Lakers had a great team featuring Jerry West and Elgin Baylor. In fact, the coach of the Lakers, Fred Schaus, lived on my street in Inglewood for a while, so we had Lakers showing up in our neighborhood, much to my dad’s delight.

The worst thing about being a Laker fan in the 60s was . . . the Boston Celtics. During my boyhood, it seemed like every year the Lakers got into the NBA finals, only to be beaten by the Bill Russell-led Celtics. In fact, during the first 13 years of my life, the Celtics won 11 national championships, 9 of them over the Lakers. So, as you can imagine, I grew up with a rather strong dislike for the Celtics.

magic-bird-championship-4.jpgThen I went to college and grad school in Cambridge, Massachusetts, right across the river from Boston. That was in the Larry Bird years, and I soon found myself cheering for the Celtics. It wasn’t just that they were very good, but that the team, with Bird’s on-the-court leadership, was a great team. But, that was also in the Magic Johnson Laker years, and who didn’t love Magic? So I found myself with a divided soul, rooting for both teams at once. (Photo: Magic Johnson and Larry Bird face of in an NBA final.)

After grad school, I lived in Southern California, and became renewed in my love for the Lakers. But, I must confess, it was hard for me to feel much affection for the team during the Shaq and early-Kobe years. Those guys were great athletes and the team was strong, but I struggled with liking Shaq and Kobe as people. So I had mixed feelings about the Lakers.

Meanwhile, I was strangely drawn to the San Antonio Spurs, not because I had any connections in San Antonio, but because the David Robinson and Tim Duncan-led team had such class. Of course, when the Spurs won championships, it meant they beat my home-town Lakers in the playoffs. But we had to lose, let it be to the Spurs. 

Now, oddly enough, I live just outside of San Antonio. This is Spurs territory. And I’ve become a proud Spurs fan, even though the team isn’t as strong today as it was a couple of years ago. Nevertheless, I’ve found it easy to cheer on such a fine team with such fine human beings as players.

tim-duncan-eye-contact-5.jpgThe problem is that Spurs fans are required by Texas law to hate the Lakers, especially Kobe Bryant. As Kobe has grown up, as a player and as a man, I’ve found it easier to root for him and the Lakers. But I have to do this in secret. If the Spurs don’t win, let it be the Lakers. (Photo: I took this at a Spurs game last year. Tim Duncan is looking right at me. You know what he’s thinking: “You’ve got my back, right Mark? You hate the Lakers and Kobe. Right?”)

Or, if the Spurs don’t win, let it be the Celtics? After eight years cheering for my former on-court enemies, I have a kind of nostalgic pleasure in Celtic victories.

So what am I, a Spurs fan with disloyal affection for the Lakers and historic appreciation for the Celtics supposed to do when the Lakers beat the Celtics in the NBA championship? Like I said, I am confused.

Well, anyway, congratulations to the Lakers. As a man, I’m confused, but the boy in me is cheering. 

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