New from The Atlantic: Because place matters.

What Unites Los Angeles

Conor Friedersdorf

In Los Angeles, there isn't anything that unifies the city as much as the Lakers. They're the team of blacks, whites, and Hispanics, the team of rich and poor, the team of every sub-region from the San Fernando Valley to the Inland Empire to Orange County. Our football teams are long gone, UCLA and USC are rivals, the Galaxy and Chivas fans break down along ethnic and class lines, even the Dodgers and the Angels have their respective fan bases, but more than anything else, LA is an NBA town, and our other franchise isn't even worth naming, because they're an irrelevant afterthought.

Our most hated rival? The Boston Celtics. For guys like my dad, it goes back to the days of Bill Russell, Jerry West and Elgin Baylor. My generation experienced the rivalry when Magic Johnson and Larry Bird faced off. Tonight when I watch game one, Lakers versus Celtics, I'll feel a sharp yearning for the voice of Chick Hearn, the longtime Lakers color announcer and perhaps the most loved man in Los Angeles history, and I'll think back on how lucky Southern California basketball fans have been in my lifetime: nine NBA championships, even more trips to the finals, and the privilege of watching Magic, Kareem, Shaq and Kobe. Most towns are lucky to get one guy like that in a generation.

After the Lakers beat Phoenix I was driving around Mid City, and a family was parked on the side of the road, sitting in the back of a pickup truck waving purple and gold flags. People honked as they went by. On the freeways this week I've seen Lakers flags mounted on car windows, taut in the 75 MPH wind. Come 6 pm today, the freeways will be emptier than usual, and someone oblivious to the world of sports will wonder at the light traffic. We'll be watching the game, unable to muster quite as much animosity toward the less formidable Celtics of today -- and smug in the suspicion that Boston fans fear our team more than we fear theirs.

More here.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus
The Florida Report - An 8-part video series with Richard Florida The Burden of Home Ownership

The Burden of Home Ownership

Part 8: Richard Florida argues that Americans need to get over their obsession with real estate More in the series »

The Path to Recovery

The Path to Recovery

The rise of megaregions, the decline of home ownership, the shift away from a car culture - these are among the nation's responses to today's economic turmoil. Adapted from Richard Florida's new book, The Great Reset. More »

High Speed Rail All Aboard!

The future of train travel, with The Atlantic's Derek Thompson