Last Friday, as I opened a Corona bottle and started watching a Lakers/Celtics game, I was reminded of a funny story.
In the summer of 2008, I had oral surgery to remove all four of my wisdom teeth at once. It’s a fairly noninvasive procedure, so I wasn’t nervous.
“We’re going to put you under for an hour or so,” the doctor told me beforehand, “and when you wake up, there’s a chance that you will either laugh or cry uncontrollably.”
“Pshhhhh,” I thought, “I’m a man, I don’t cry.”
Now the next part of the story all comes from my mom, because I do not remember a second of it. She’s a pretty reliable source though, so I believe her.
Right after I woke up, I smiled, greeted the nurse and then immediately broke down crying. And I’m not talking “trying to hold the tears back, but letting one go” type crying. I mean full on “Mufasa just got thrown off a cliff” crying.
My mom said she was shocked to see me weep like that.
Mom: “Why are you crying, Pasha?”
Me: “Why did the Lakers have to lose to the Celtics?”
Thats right, after waking up from the anesthetic, my first thoughts were about the Lakers’ loss to the Celtics in the 2008 NBA finals a few months prior.
On June 17th, 2008, the Boston Celtics destroyed the Los Angeles Lakers 131-92 on their way to winning a 17th championship for the franchise. I’ll never forget the feeling of heartbreak I had when Kevin Garnett yelled, “ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE!”
Side note, he messed up a line that Adidas paid him to use. Look it up.
Before 2008, I never really gave much thought to the Boston Celtics.
I had heard the stories about Jerry West losing to the Celtics every time they met in the finals. I had seen clips of the Showtime Lakers playing the Celtics in the 80s. I have read books about the rivalry between Magic Johnson and Larry Bird.
I love the Lakers and I’ve studied a lot of their history.
But it’s different when all those moments happened before you were born. The biggest rivalry I had experienced before 2008 was with the Sacramento Kings in the early 2000s.
But everything changed on June 17, 2008. I learned what it was like to lose to the Boston Celtics. I knew what it was like to have to watch a bunch of Bostonians in green celebrate as I sat on my couch wondering what the hell happened.
I never cried about the loss, but I really wanted to. The Lakers had been awful since Shaquille O’Neal left in 2004 and being a Laker fan was pretty tough for a while.
People always get mad at me for saying that since the Lakers won three titles in the early 2000s, but anyone would get disheartened by seeing Chris Mihm and Smush Parker being full time starters for multiple seasons. It wasn’t pretty.
But a midseason trade to bring in Pau Gasol finally brought them back to contention.
It was a tough loss, but there was a silver lining. Now, when I speak to older Lakers fans, I know how they feel when they scream towards the heavens and curse the Boston Celtics.
I’m a part of the club now. Although my favorite color is green, I will never wear that color at a basketball game or viewing party. It’s in our union agreement.
And when the Lakers got their revenge in the 2010 NBA finals, I can legitimately say it was the greatest day of my life. I will always remember watching the game from right outside a Cheesecake Factory bar section since I was under 21 and screaming with every made basket.
Maybe that’s why I can be thankful for the 2008 loss. Because in the end, it led to the best day of my life.
In today’s political environment, I try my best to show love towards every person I see. But no matter what happens in the world, I will still scowl at anyone I see wearing a Celtics jersey.
No matter where I am or what the environment is, I will always cherish the Lakers-Celtics rivalry.