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Nick Van Exel

I still love L.A.

Because of Magic Johnson, my all-time favorite athlete, my basketball allegiances have always been simple: Lakers purple and gold. This made for an uncomfortable partnership after Magic retired.

Cheering for Anthony Peeler, Cedric Ceballos and Nick Van Exel during the lean years was not particularly uplifting and required a lot of feigned enthusiasm with little or no payoff.

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...