Editor’s Note: the following article and quotes within are satire.
In every season of every team sport, there are multiple intriguing teams who become the subject of discussions between fans, analysts, and athletes alike. But every once in a while, a team comes along that captures the collective attention of everyone who follows sports, whether due to incredible success or tragic disappointment. These teams do not come around very often, but when they do, fans are treated to an almost daily form of entertainment that becomes bigger than the sport itself, a type of reality television that is altogether unrealistic and takes over more mediums than just the television screen.
This is the story of one of those teams.
The sport of basketball is often cyclical in nature. Each game features a back-and-forth between teams fighting for the right to claimed victory. A game of runs, as it has often been called, every match contains smaller battles with a different team winning each, and after 48 minutes the ultimate winner is crowned based on its ability to win a majority of those battles.
The macro view of the sport is very much the same. A team stays at the top for years, a dynasty that rules over the rest of its league with an iron fist, daring opponents to knock it off the hill it stands on. But every league champion is dethroned eventually and when they are, they often fall into a pit of despair. They become just another cog in the machine that spits out another champion, all the while plotting their return to the top. Whether they ever get to that point depends on a bevy of factors, but the process stays true regardless of those outside forces.
The 2015-16 Los Angeles Lakers were one such team. After years of being on the absolute top of the food chain, their fall came swiftly and tragically. In a desperate attempt to stay on their throne, the team had attempted to trade for a superstar, one that could have been the next player in a line of greats that had played for them. But the hope that came with that trade was destroyed almost immediately. The higher ups came down with a swift and Stern decision – a veto that changed the course of the team’s direction. The decision was appalling, but it was final.
In the years after the veto heard ‘round the world, the team faltered and fell hard. They traded for a superstar and an aging all-time great, but what was to be a super-team became another disappointment that collapsed in one year. Coaches were fired, players left, and the team fell into tougher times.
Our story starts here: the Lakers have had two miserable seasons, the worst in the long history of one of the most successful teams in all sports. The last remnants of a glorious past are soon to be forgotten and the uphill journey back to glory seems impossible to trek. The brand is dead.
It is the summer before the most pivotal season in recent memory for the Lakers. The team selects D’Angelo Russell in the annual draft, leading to both criticism and praise from talking heads. The legendary Kobe Bryant is entering the final year of his contract, likely to retire after the season. But armed with multiple good young players, there is hope within the team.
Mitch Kupchak (Lakers General Manager): We had our highest pick in a very long time so it was important for us to make the correct decision. We made that decision based on the potential that Russell had.
Byron Scott (Lakers Head Coach): We made our decision because one guy was clearly not a true point guard and the other guy was probably not pro-ready. Obviously, we were a little wrong about those things. Whoops.
Kupchak: The coach had absolutely no say in our decision.
D’Angelo Russell: (Lakers Rookie and Starting Point Guard): Man, I was beyond excited to be drafted by this team. Join a historic franchise, learn from of the best to ever do it, and get plenty of minutes? Sign me up for that!
Kobe Bryant (Lakers Legend and Starting Small Forward): What was the kid’s name again?
The rookie was not the only reason for hope. The Lakers were also returning two second-year players who seemed poised to become future building blocks.
Scott: Yeah, I let [Lakers’ starting shooting guard, Jordan] Clarkson sit on the bench for a good while last season. And then when he did play, he was great! Like I’ve always said, sitting on that wood has a way of making you better. Oh what, now? The benches aren’t wood. Just another way all of today’s NBA players other than Kobe are soft I guess.
Kupchak: I really wish we had played Clarkson way sooner than we did.
Clarkson: I really wish I had played sooner.
The season is approaching and preseason serves as a measuring stick for what the team will look like. With a whole new amalgam of players featuring young newbies and older vets, the team looks to try to build something that will give fans a glimpse at success.
Kupchak: I thought all of the young guys played very well. There was progress from all of them, and some to-be-expected struggles.
Scott: I thought Russell could have been a little more aggressive, you know? Show a little fire, prove you want the minutes.
Russell: I thought guys could have caught the passes I was throwing them.
Fans start to worry. Is their rookie superstar a bust, or is his name (perfectly suited for D’Angelo Bustell puns) a complete coincidence? Analysts start to ravage the team, claiming they made a mistake passing on a more “sure” prospect. Many claim the long lasting and famed brand is dead. And for the first time in years, it seems that that is true. Meanwhile, the team sells out two preseason games 2,500 miles away from their home court.
Amidst the chaos, the Legend is quietly playing well. Can a full season of this be expected?
Bryant: I felt healthy, man. And it felt good to play with some guys who weren’t total scrubs, you know? For the first time in my career, I had a point guard who could handle the ball and get me the ball in my favorite spots so I could shoot. I was excited.
Scott: I let them play pretty free during the preseason, but I was always going to crank down when the games mattered. Can’t have a rookie handling the ball the whole time, right? Gotta give it to your best players.
The regular season is rapidly approaching and the members of the team are asked about their expectations for the season:
Russell: Pretty much just going to try and get everyone the ball, make everyone happy. Hopefully I’ll make coach happy. I’m not sure how to do that yet, but I’m sure I’ll find out sometime!
Bryant: I’m hoping to make the rookies work. No need for any soft crap on my team.
Julius Randle (Lakers Starting Power Forward): I’ll be busy proving no one can guard me.
Roy Hibbert (Lakers Starting Center): You know those cartoons where a character tries to plug a hole with his finger, then another one pops up, and another one until the character has no fingers left? Yeah, I’ll be doing that on the defensive end.
Nicholas Young (Lakers Backup; Exclusive Shooter): I just wanna know if I can still get buckets with a tattoo on my shooting arm, ya know? What am I saying? Of course I can!
Robert Sacre (Lakers’ Second Longest Tenured Player and Symbol of Stability): I beat Robert Upshaw for a roster spot, so I think this will be a good year.
Metta World Peace (Lakers’ Backup Entertainment Provider): I’m more taking a mentorship role this year. I’m direct, but I’m not going to give you a spoon full of whipped cream. I’m definitely intense. But I’m really into encouragement.
Kupchak: I’m hoping to surprise some people with our play, but most importantly develop our young talent for a bright future.
Scott: Time to win some games with our vets, baby!
To be continued…