LOS ANGELES – It wasn’t supposed to end like this. Not when LeBron James came on board last July.
But here they were, the 2018-2019 Los Angeles Lakers ending their season with a meaningless home game against the Portland Trail Blazers.
And there I was, sitting alone way up in section 307 with a $30 ticket I bought a few hours before the game just so I could go watch this brutal team close out a brutal season.
I’m not a Laker fan, so what in the world was I doing there? Call it morbid curiosity. I just wanted to see how listless of a night it could be for a franchise that once prided itself on being a contender but hasn’t won a playoff game since 2012 against an Oklahoma City team that had Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook in the starting five and a guy named James Harden coming off the bench.
Yup, it’s really been that long.
This was supposed to be the year LeBron James brought them back to greatness. Or so all these Laker fans thought.
Making things even better Tuesday night? Laker president Magic Johnson surprisingly stepped down from his position 90 minutes before the game because he wanted to tweet more or something, which only added to the fun of this finale.
So come with me to the Lakers final game of the season and allow me to show you just how classic/mind-boggling/beautiful of a night it was at Staples Center. A night that ended with a perfect heartbreaking 3-point buzzer-beater by the Blazers and a night in which Laker fans seemed totally OK with how everything’s going with their franchise.
I bounded into the arena about 20 minutes before tip. After getting through the doors there were Laker employees handing out Laker license plate frames, because nothing eases the pain of an awful season like a new license plate frame. I politely decline their offer and head to the nosebleeds.
Once I caught my breath up there I see a souvenir shop covered in 23 jerseys, shirts, pennants, towels and whatever else the could get LeBron’s name or number on. There’s only jersey for sale of a retired player, a jersey you still see a lot of fans wearing at the games:
You can’t put a price on the past. Well, yes you can. That thing will run you a cool $225.
I head to my lonely seat in Section 307 and this is when it starts getting good. After the Lakers’ band (I didn’t know they had one and then quickly learned they were just one section over from me and they play a lot during the game) played a decent version of the national anthem, the first laugh out loud moment happened.
Before Laker introductions they drop these huge sheet-like screens from the scoreboard and play highlights on them while music blares and lights flash. The only problem with these highlights were that they only featured players who haven’t played in quite some time this season – LeBron James dunking, Lonzo Ball driving, Kyle Kuzma shooting, and Brandon Ingram scoring, Rajon Rondo passing. And then the intros start and the starting five is – Alex Caruso, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Jemmerio Jones, Mike Muscala, and JaVale McGee.
The crowd’s reaction to the introductions was as if they were watching two away teams.
The game starts slowly with few cheers, though the surprisingly large crowd does clap when someone in this inspiring lineup does something halfway decent. But the first good clap comes during a timeout when it’s announced that in honor of Fan Appreciation Night we’re all gonna get a coupon for two free tacos at Jack in the Box. Rejoice! Though we have to wait to the very end of the game. Ouch.
Speaking of Fan Appreciation Night, Kuzma comes on the Jumbotron and with all the personality of a microwave pizza thanks the fans for their support all year and how much it meant to them and my lord I’ve never been further away from getting goosebumps.
Lakers fans get jacked up in the final seconds of first quarter only to see a wide open layup at the buzzer not go in. I couldn’t see who it was because I was so far from the court:
During another break in the action they have two guys wearing Kobe jerseys come out and try to put t