Magic was my guy. He did things well, he had the coolest nickname in the history of sports, he shared the ball, and he did it all with flair. And though he was an assassin on the court, he twisted the knife with a smile on his face. When Jordan and the Bulls whipped a flawed Laker team in the 1991 Finals, I was devastated. Few sports memories in my youth stung so much.
Because of Magic, my basketball allegiances have always been tied to the purple and gold. It was, at times, an uncomfortable partnership after Magic retired, cheering for Anthony Peeler, Cedric Ceballos and Nick Van Exel during the lean years. But when Kobe Bryant arrived, I felt like I had finally found a Laker I could embrace again. We were similar in age, we were both hungry to prove ourselves, and I loved Kobe's mini-afro and the ice water in his veins. I showed Shaquille O'Neal the proper respect and showered him with public praise, but deep down, I occasionally felt indifference. Watching Shaq was like watching a rhinoceros perform in Swan Lake. On some level, it's graceful and artful, but there is also simply too much power and girth to really appreciate how much skill is involved with pulling it off.