My dad and I have many differences, but I still love him. And it may sound stupid, but our bond is strong today mainly because of the Los Angeles Lakers.
When I lived in South Africa during my Peace Corps service, my parents and I had an arrangement for keeping in touch. They would switch off calling me every three days. Sometimes that time frame changed, but for two years, that was the general schedule.
One night, as I was talking to my mom while cooking dinner, she pulled one of the most subtle Persian mom guilt moves I have ever witnessed.
“I was talking to your dad and he told me you guys were on the phone for 40 minutes the other day.”
That’s all she said, but as a Persian son, I knew what it translated to:
“I see you love your father more than me even though I did so much for you as a stay-at-home mom when you were growing up.”
Hell hath no fury like a Persian mom’s scorn.
But the thing she didn’t understand was that during those 40 minutes, my dad and I didn’t really have deep conversations. I would say that about 90 percent of our conversations during the NBA season went like this:
Dad: Hey Pasha joon[Persian term of endearment]
Me: Hey bab, how’ve you been?
Dad: Pretty good. We all miss you here.
Me: I miss you all too. I can’t wait to come home.
Dad: Me, neither. Did you see what the Lakers did last night?
[40 minutes of Lakers talk]
That’s right, Lakers talk. Throughout my entire life, our shared Lakers fandom has been the pillar of the relationship I have with my dad.
And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Some of the earliest and most vivid memories I have of my father revolve around the Los Angeles Lakers. For example, when I was 7-years-old, I made the mistake of talking to my dad during a pivotal moment in a Lakers game to ask him about something that had been weighing on me.
“Dad, is Santa real?”
And with no hesitation, eyes still on the screen, he said no. I asked him about this moment when I was older and he said he didn’t remember it because I would ask him a million questions a day when I was a little kid. But my guess is that he was just trying to concentrate on the game.
Looking back on it, I don’t blame him.
And then there was the time he taught me what the word “virgin” meant because he wanted me to understand why he thought A.C. Green was such a good person. It was the early 2000s and I was about 11 at the time, but I learned about “The Iron Virgin” long before many Laker fans my age.
But my favorite Laker memory with my Dad has to be Kobe Bryant’s last game. We were in Las Vegas and usually when we go there, my dad is at the blackjack tables late into the night. But for this game, he came up to our room at the Planet Hollywood Hotel and we watched together.
Never in my life have I given more high-fives and hugs during a sporting event. Both of us knew the magnitude of Kobe’s last game. He has been a Laker since I first started watching basketball. And with each point he scored, until he finally ended with 60, sent us into an excited frenzy.
For that game, we weren’t father and son; we were two bros enjoying Kobe’s last game.
We tend to agree on Laker-oriented debates most of the time as well. When families were divided in the early 2000s over the issue of keeping Shaq or Kobe, we were united in our support for The Black Mamba. And when the Lakers hired Luke Walton this past offseason, we were the only two people I knew of who thought that Walton might be too young to coach this Lakers team.
People often ask me why I feel so strongly about the Los Angeles Lakers. And the reason is simple. My best memories revolve around the Lakers and I am much closer to my dad because of it.
And if I have a son or daughter one day, I hope that we can bond through the Lakers as well. But even if we don’t, nothing can take away the memories I have with my dad.