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

By Martin Rogers
FOX Sports Columnist

Magic Johnson, still the heartbeat of Laker Nation after all these years, got things rolling, because, well, that’s how things tend to go in Los Angeles.

Former LA stalwart current local media voice Mychal Thompson kept it going, unsurprisingly given who his son is, and before long these NBA Finals were a major thing in Tinseltown — despite the Lakers long since having been 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 historic love for its counterpart 380 miles south, have suddenly become LA’s team of choice.

That’s right; Laker fans, Laker players, former players and LA celebrities are all-in on Stephen Curry and his Bay Area pals, an unlikely and temporary alliance that has everything to do with an older, nastier feud that spans right across the country.

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

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

Chris Broussard joins Colin Cowherd to discuss the latest in the NBA.

The Lakers want the Warriors to win because they don’t want the Boston Celtics to win — because they’re the Celtics and because a green-themed party in a week or so would mean NBA championship No. 18 for Boston, breaking its current tie with LA

“The Lakers never want the Celtics to win,” Johnson told ESPN, insisting that Laker owner Dr. Jerry Buss, who died in 2013, had fixed on trying to get the Lakers to the top of the all-time championship list during his lifetime .

“We are all Warriors fans now,” added Mychal Thompson, whose son Klay scored 25 points on Wednesday but could not prevent the Warriors from falling into a 2-1 series hole.

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 collected three, most recently behind LeBron James and Anthony Davis in the Orlando bubble in 2020, to draw level on 17 overall.

It’s a serious matter in Boston, too, where the “Banner 18” catchphrase has been ever-present during this postseason, providing historic fuel to draw upon when faced with Game 7s against the Milwaukee Bucks (at a screaming TD Garden) and the Miami Heat (on the road to cap off a wild and unpredictable series).

And it seems to matter just as much in California, where the first searing waves of summer heat have kept the locals out in bars into the late evening, with Laker-jersey-packed watering holes featuring screens devoted to the Finals.

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

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

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

The Finals are where the Lakers thought they might be when Russell Westbrook came aboard at the start of the 2021-22 campaign to formulate an imposing triumvirate of star power, one that eventually found itself hopelessly incompatible and condemned the team to an 11th place finish in the Western Conference, and therefore out of the play-in tournament.

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

“Can you imagine how hard the Celtics fans would be laughing at us if they win it in the year when 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 his workplace, took an Uber to another closer to home at the half, and braced himself for some difficult questions once he returned to his family.

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

Matrimonial hurdles aside, this is a concerning time for Lakers supporters. With the Celtics’ glory days of the 1980s now a fading memory, most of the LA fanbase believed that joining Boston on 17 titles in 2020 would inevitably lead to their team surging clear and firmly establishing a claim as the greatest franchise in NBA history.

Yet with James’ individual stat lines unable to translate into wins, Davis’ repeated injury troubles continuing to flare, Westbrook apparently spent and years worth of draft picks already blown on trades, it is the team from the East and its young core of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown that may have the greatest upside over the next few years.

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

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

After Game 3, Steph compared the injury to the foot sprain he suffered when Marcus Smart dove into his leg in March which caused him to miss the final 12 games of the regular season.

Celtics fans crave a return to the glory days of the 1980s. To irk LA in the process would be even sweeter. After all, it was the Celtics supporters who came up with the original “Beat LA” chant, more than 40 years ago.

Then there were the heated series between the Celtics and Lakers in the Finals, three times in the 1980s, then again in 2008 and 2010 — and 12 times overall dating back to 1959.

For Warriors head coach Steve Kerr, the infamous Kevin McHale clothesline on Kurt Rambis in Game 4 of the 1984 Finals was one of the most memorable images of his childhood.

“There’s a mystique that exists with the Celtics, for sure,” Kerr told reporters. “Incredible franchise, incredible history. And for me, just having grown up watching those games and being a fan, it’s pretty cool to be coaching in the Finals against them.”

For the Lakers and their supporters, it will be very cool if their newfound buddies, the Warriors, can mount a comeback and reverse the course of the series. And very miserable if they can’t.

“A bunch of nights watching, only to have the Celtics brag about being first to 18?” Rivera said. “That would be the worst start to summer.”

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

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