NBA Finals 2022: Laker Nation rooting for Warriors to beat Celtics

Through Martin Rogers
FOX Sports columnist

Magic Johnson, still the heartbeat of lakers Nation got things rolling after all these years, because that’s the way things work in Los Angeles.

Mychal Thompson, former stalwart local media voice from LA, kept it going, which isn’t surprising considering who his son is, and soon those NBA Finals were a big thing in Tinseltown — even though the Lakers were long gone on summer vacation .

As it unfolded, there was one theme and one theme only.

The Golden State Warriors, an interstate rival from a city with no historical love for their counterpart 380 miles south, have suddenly become LA’s team of choice.

That’s correct; Laker fans, Laker players, ex-players and LA celebrities are all in with Stephen Curry and his Bay Area cronies, an unlikely and temporary alliance that has everything to do with an older, nastier feud spanning over covers the whole country.

LeBron teases that he’d love to play alongside Steph Curry and 2022 Warriors I THE HERD

LeBron teases that he'd love to play alongside Steph Curry and 2022 Warriors I THE HERD

Chris Broussard talks to Colin Cowherd about the latest developments in the NBA.

The Lakers want the Warriors to win because they don’t want the Boston Celtics to win — because they are the Celtics and because a green-themed party in about a week would mean the No. 18 NBA championship for Boston, which is theirs Strom breaks tie with LA

“The Lakers never want the Celtics to win,” Johnson told ESPN, insisting Laker owner Dr. Jerry Buss was fixated on putting the Lakers at the top of the all-time championship list while he was alive.

“We’re all Warriors fans now,” added Mychal Thompson, whose son Klay scored 25 points on Wednesday but couldn’t prevent the Warriors falling into a 2-1 series gap.

While the Celtics have reached the Eastern Conference Finals four times in the past six years, the franchise’s last title was back in 2008. Since then, the Lakers have rallied three, most recently behind LeBron James and Anthony Davis in the Orlando bubble in 2020. tying for 17th overall.

It’s serious business in Boston, too, where the “Banner 18” catchphrase has been ubiquitous this postseason, providing historical fuel to lean on when pitting Game 7s against the Milwaukee Bucks (in a screaming TD Garden) and Miami faced Heat (on the way to completing a wild and unpredictable streak).

And it seems just as important in California, where the first searing waves of summer heat have kept locals in bars late into the evening, Laker-jersey-filled hangouts with screens dedicated to the Finals.

Steph Curry, Warriors fall in Game 3 of the NBA Finals I UNDISPUTED against Celtics

Steph Curry, Warriors fall in Game 3 of the NBA Finals I UNDISPUTED against Celtics

Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum combined for 53 points while Steph Curry led the way for Golden State with 31 points.

The Finals was where the Lakers thought they could be when Russell Westbrook came on board early in the 2021-22 campaign to formulate an imposing triumvirate of star power, one that would eventually prove hopelessly incompatible and the team Condemned to an 11th place finish in the Western Conference and out of the play-in tournament.

According to Hector Rivera, a 49-year-old Lakers fan from Ontario, California, the dismal season makes it all the more important that the Celtics don’t prevail in the Finals.

“Can you imagine how much the Celtics fans would laugh at us if they won the year we stunk?” Rivera told me. “That’s why I’m out here yelling at the TV.”

Rivera watched the first half on Wednesday at a bar near where he works, half took an Uber to another one closer to home and braced himself for some tough questions once he got back to his family.

“My wife won’t believe I went out just to watch the game,” he said. “She doesn’t know much about basketball, but she knows the Lakers were eliminated weeks ago.”

Marital hurdles aside, this is a worrying time for Lakers supporters. With the Celtics’ glory days in the 1980s a fading memory, most of the LA fan base believed that joining Boston in 2020 with 17 titles would inevitably see their team emerge clearly and make a claim as the largest franchise in NBA history.

Yet with James’ individual stat lines not translating into wins, Davis’ repeated injury woes continuing to flare up, Westbrook seemingly spent and years’ worth of draft picks already blown into trades, it’s the East team and his young core of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown who may well have the biggest benefits over the next few years.

Will Steph Curry start for Game 4 after his injury? I UNDISPUTED

Will Steph Curry start for Game 4 after his injury?  I UNDISPUTED

After Game 3, Steph compared the injury to the sprained ankle he suffered when Marcus Smart plunged his leg in March, causing him to miss the last 12 games of the regular season.

Celtics fans are longing for a return to the glory days of the 1980s. To tease LA about it would be even cuter. After all, it was Celtics supporters who invented the original “Beat LA” chant more than 40 years ago.

Then there was the heated series between the Celtics and the Lakers in the Finals, three times in the 1980s, then again in 2008 and 2010 – and 12 times in total since 1959.

For Warriors head coach Steve Kerr, one of the most memorable images of his childhood was the infamous Kevin McHale laundry line against Kurt Rambis in Game 4 of the 1984 finals.

“The Celtics certainly have a mystery,” Kerr told reporters. “Incredible franchise, incredible story. And for me, who just grew up watching those games and being a fan, it’s pretty cool to be able to train against them in the finals.”

It will be very cool for the Lakers and their supporters when their newfound friends, the Warriors, can make a comeback and reverse the course of the series. And very unhappy when they can’t.

“Watched a few nights just to have the Celtics brag about being first at 18?” Rivera said. “That would be the worst start to the summer.”

Martin Rogers is a columnist for FOX Sports and author of the FOX Sports Insider Newsletter. You can subscribe to the newsletter here.


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