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— By PATRIC FLANNIGAN

Sports editor

The year was 2001. My favorite NBA player Allen Iverson had done the unthinkable by leading an average but well coached Philadelphia 76ers team to the NBA finals. Sadly, Iverson was pitted against a star studded Los Angeles Lakers team that featured hall of famers that are popular enough to go by one name in Shaq and Kobe. On top of that the 76ers had to guard the crafty and dangerous Arkansas native Derrick Fisher, “Big Shot” Bob Horry, Horrace Grant, Ron Harper, Rick Fox and the real MVP of the finals that year, Mark Madsen.

Okay, that last name was me being sarcastic of course.

Needless to say, the 76ers being able to win one game that series was pretty miraculous and it gave us a visual that we’ll never forget when Iverson stepped over Tyronn Lue (remember that name) after hitting a three.

No one could stop the Lakers around that time. Not even when the Sacramento Kings captured home-court advantage and the Spurs had championship caliber teams.

However, the Spurs finally got over the hump and beat the Lakers in the Western Conference finals in 2003.

I thought the dynasty had finally ended until I watched ESPN all summer long and learned that the Lakers had acquired two more Hall of Famers in Gary Payton and Karl Malone - the latter being the NBA’s second all time leading scorer. I was an avid Seattle Supersonic fan and watching Payton go to L.A. to join the enemy evoked the same emotions one would feel if they watched the girl that had a crush on in fifth grade decide to be someone else’s just because he ran faster than you.

Don’t ask.

Anyway, the payback would come when the Detroit Pistons would humiliate the Lakers for a championship in 2004. The Lakers broke up and my enjoyment of watching the Lakers struggle was short lived because by 2008 they were back in the championship picture. The Lakers would capture titles in 2009-2010.

Flash forward to 2019. The Lakers have failed to make the playoffs over the last few years and not even Lebron James was enough to get the purple and gold back in to post season play.

So you’d imagine I’d be pretty happy, right?

Not quite.

Just like everyone needs a team, everyone needs a rival. It’s what drives you to perform to the best of your abilities. The Lakers were a lot like the Warriors are today. Everyone knew the Lakers were the best but no one was cowering because of it. Everyone was making a mad race to get better.

There is no motivation like competition. That’s one of the reasons why coaches pair players up to get their 40-yard times.

It was okay for one or two years, but for the Lakers to not be relevant over the last nine years is unfortunate.

My friends that are Laker fans have been miserable and confused and I’m actually starting to feel bad for them.

I’m predicting the Lakers will find a way to trade Lebron for James Harden and Chris Paul and it’s still not going to work.

I don’t see Anthony Davis in a Laker uniform and given how Kawhi Leonard has performed, James isn’t going to attract him to L.A. to play second fiddle.

With that said, I hope Laker fans can get a small break in bad misfortune in the near future because I’m running out of ways to laugh.

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