As I took a group trip to the holy city of Jerusalem, Israel, I left behind one of my biggest passions. I was boarding my flight fully aware that the Lakers would be playing Game 5 of the NBA Finals and potentially winning the championship while I was in the plane. Not only did I not get to watch the game in Los Angeles and celebrate with all my friends, but I didn’t get to watch the game at all and would have to jump around in my limited space on the transatlantic flight celebrating while making sure not to wake anyone up.
Lucky for me, the pilot was kind enough to check in through various radio signals to update the passengers of the score. The final score: Lakers win the championship. I was excited, amazed, upset, angry, stunned, shocked, jealous, ecstatic, crazed, and about a million more emotions all at once. I didn’t know exactly what to feel. I was so happy they won but so upset that I wasn’t a part of it. I sat in my seat for the next six hours of the flight and let my dreams of the Lakers parade take me away.
We finally landed and got to what would be our home for the next three weeks. I quickly began to tour the neighborhood because I knew it would be important to find a television where I can watch the Lakers enjoy their two and a half mile parade through Downtown Los Angeles among screaming fans. Unfortunately, I could not find a television anywhere among all the Orthodox citizens and Kosher restaurants. However, I did find something else.
I discovered an extraordinary love for the Lakers and especially Sasha Vujacic among the international fans. The Israelis have really taken a liking for the NBA as of late and have truly supported the international stars that have made their name recognizable in the league. On the most popular team in the world, the Los Angeles Lakers, the most popular European born players are Pau Gasol and Sasha Vujacic.
As I continued to walk around the Old City of Jerusalem, I asked everyone in sight, “Where can I find a replay of the Lakers game or where can I watch the Lakers parade in a few days?” The answer: “Lakers? Los Angeles Lakers? I love Lakers! Very hard to watch here, probably you can’t find parade anywhere. But they won the championship.” It was overwhelming how passionate everyone was about a team that was so many thousands of miles away. I had so many interesting conversations in the next weeks that it felt as though I was still at home in Los Angeles at times.
As I’d spark up conversations with random people about the Purple and Gold, I’d mention time to time that I wrote articles for Sasha Vujacic’s site and that I’ve met him several times. The reaction: dropped jaws and drooling with glazed eyes and jealousy. At this moment, I couldn’t be prouder of not only myself, selfishly, but also Sasha, for the results of his work ethic causing him to finally be recognized around the world.
Although Sasha’s 2008-2009 season was not his best, the fans recognize that he is an important asset to the Lakers and they all look forward to seeing him in purple and gold for years to come. It was unbelievable to see how familiar everyone was with his defensive intensity and his superb three-point shooting.
After all these great conversations with random people about my favorite team, and my favorite player, I knew that being away from Los Angeles during all the celebrations wouldn’t be as bad as I originally expected. Knowing that I was surrounded by passionate and knowledgeable fans for weeks to come, I knew I would thoroughly enjoy my stay.
Thank you to the Los Angeles Lakers and especially Sasha Vujacic for a great season and your great play to get us all through our basic everyday lives with joy and passion of our favorite team.