Last place Lakers teach life lessons

Life, Sports

What the purple and gold have taught me about humility and motivation


Sweet strokes and demoralizing dunks dazzled fans at Staples Center on March 7. And yet, as delicious as that sounds, the game was anything but appetizing. The Clippers furiously ripped apart the last-place Lakers in a 48-point blowout.

To put it nicely, the Lakers have had a rough season. They lost, regained and then lost again their fearless leader, Kobe Bryant. Then, the rest of their roster dropped like flies due to injuries and illnesses.

As I’ve proclaimed on Twitter, the Lakers are dead. The season isn’t over however, they still have 18 more games. With the Lakers in this foreign state, I’m going to take this opportunity to use the ragtag team as a metaphor for life.

The Lakers have fallen from grace. In the span of five years, they have gone from championship winners to playoff contenders to irrelevancy. The franchise demands nothing less than perfection, and the fall has been long and hard.

Watching the purple and gold flailing has highlighted a key facet in my mind: the importance of humility. When the fans start filing out and people stop tuning in, hiding in the locker room is not an option. When the front office conducts trade talks behind your back, throwing tantrums is not acceptable. There are no excuses.

The best choice of action for the Lakers in this situation is for them to swallow their pride and ride out the storm. The team lacks talent, which means even a maximum effort could result in a loss.

Likewise, life presents similar scenarios. Days turn into struggles, people double cross you and even personal victories can feel tainted by a sour season. Oftentimes, the jabs that hurt the most are the invisible ones: the barely audible whispers on the sidelines and the glare of empty seats.

All hope feels lost, but there is a bright spot. Being knocked down to such a low point is a vehement reminder to never take anything for granted. Championship success should be celebrated tastefully rather than brashly. Treat teammates and competitors with respect because who knows what will happen a decade from now.

An individual currently overlooked could end up a superstar in five years’ time. Humility can translate into tactful motivation. Kobe tweeted a “thank you” to the Clippers for beating down on his team after the embarrassing loss, then in a Power 106 radio interview said, “Revenge is sweet and it’s quick.” Kobe has been knocked down in the past (and successfully bounced back up), and I’m inclined to reverentially follow his lead — to ascend the persistent haters and use futile positions as fuel to work harder to improve.

Granted, the Black Mamba earned his keep through 17 years in the NBA, and as a junior in college, I haven’t tasted anything close to that amount of success. And although I played on an awful high school basketball team, I can’t say I’ve experienced the raw disappointment of a nationally televised 48-point home court loss.

What I can do is relate and remember: At the end of a fruitless season or upon completing a strenuous challenge, the humility learned and motivation gained is invaluable.

As published in the Pepperdine University student-publication, the Graphic.

Walt and MJ rule their games

Sports, Television

Call it a beau geste.

Since Sunday, I’ve read dozens of Breaking Bad reviews, a handful of them creating parallels to the sports world. Dave Zirin of “The Nation” thoroughly and brilliantly compared Walter White to Lance Armstrong.

My NBA-minded perspective is a drop in the bucket. It’s a somewhat empty gesture in terms of the weight it holds, but a gesture nonetheless to a legendary television series.

Drug kingpin Walter White grew into an untouchable, invincible, god-like character. He floated above everyone else, sending Neo-Nazi hit men to solve his problems for him. He doesn’t sound like the kind of guy you’d want to be friends with, yet at the same time you still revere Mr. White, regardless of the sketchiness morality-wise.

Out of the crop of NBA players past and present, to represent Walt I chose the greatest to ever play the game (not LeBron James, not Kobe Bryant): Michael Jordan.

Like Walter White, MJ earned his way to the top. As Walt evolved into an intimidating meth cook from a high school chemistry teacher, MJ evolved into the G.O.A.T. of the NBA after being knocked to the lowly JV squad his sophomore year of high school.

Walt forever glared at Elliot Schwartz, who essentially stole his multi-million dollar idea in Grey Matter industries. MJ envied the sophomore rival who took his Varsity team spot.

Then, there are the branding similarities. Michael Jordan developed the undying Jordan line, as Walter White developed his signature pure blue meth.

Both of them even had sidekicks who served as their shadows. Scottie Pippen backed MJ, and Jesse Pinkman did the same for Walt. Both Pippen and Pinkman kick ass toward the end. But unfortunately for Pippen, it hurt his image as he barely escaped charges for allegedly pushing a man in a Malibu restaurant fight in August, leaving the man unconscious. For Jesse, it was in light of a sweet revenge as he laid a beat down on Todd Alquist.

Jordan and White were clever and calculated in their movements. Post-retirement, MJ admitted he would take shots at players when he knew the refs weren’t looking. As for Walt, he managed to sneak around behind his DEA officer brother-in-law’s back for ages.

Now step back and appreciate the hero-to-villain plot lines that make up their lives. Neither of them rounded out their careers loved by all, and their arrogance tainted their personas (see MJ hall of fame speech and how many victims Walt terrorized).

Despite the flaws and imperfections, Walt and MJ are cemented as bona fide legends in their respective games. Everyone dons the classic Bulls apparel as a nod to MJ, and as for Walt, have you seen how many people walk around in Heisenberg shirts?

As sports fans still thrive off reliving Jordan’s epic moments, I’d like to think T.V. fans will be sitting on the edge of their seats replaying Breaking Bad episodes in 20 years.

As published in the Pepperdine University student publication, the Graphic.

Note: “kick ass” was edited to “kick butt” for print publication — the Graphic stays classy