LOS ANGELES — Lakers fans have taken a lot of flack over the years from other cities. They show up in the second quarter, they only are there to be seen and they spend most of the game on their iPhones trying to get a photo of Jack Nicholson or Denzel Washington or Iggy Azalea or whomever is sitting courtside.
But Clippers coach Doc Rivers was impressed with those fans. Rivers took in a rare game as a spectator Sunday when his son Austin and the New Orleans Pelicans came to town and beat the Lakers. Asked about the experience before his Clippers played the Suns Monday, Rivers praised the oft-maligned Lakers’ fans.
“I’ll say this, one of the things I was impressed with was how crowded it was,” Rivers said. “When you have the record that they have (5-16), it says a lot about their fan base and their loyalty. I was impressed. I went though that in Boston and I was amazed how crowded it was every night…. there’s not a lot of fan bases in our league — or in any league for that matter — that would do that.”
He’s right, the Lakers — specifically Kobe Bryant — are filling that building. And the fans this season, when they are given a spoonful of hope in a game, respond loudly (they were great in the Lakers upset of the Raptors).
As an LA native, I’ve regularly used a line I heard from ESPN’s J.A. Adande, describing L.A. as an iceberg. What everybody sees is that 10 percent of it above the waterline — the celebrities walking down the street, the hot clubs, everywhere TMZ cameramen hang out waiting to pounce. And that’s the courtside seats and expensive lower-bowl seats at Lakers games (the people the camera picks up on broadcasts). For them it is about being seen and doing something quintessentially LA as part of a night out (except for Jack and Denzel, they love the games).
But the 90 percent of LA that nobody sees under the waterline are regular people: Mechanics, insurance salesmen, Thai food cooks, soccer moms, and accountants. That is the core of the Lakers’ fan base. Those people only go to a couple of games a year, they love and defend Kobe passionately (to a fault), they love the Buss family and have no use for Dwight Howard. They are real fans. Delusional ones at times, but fans.
And they are still filling Staples Center. They will for a while, no matter how frustrated they get with the franchise.