Beat L A, beat L A, beat L A!
There’s no chant Phoenix fans enjoy more since we don’t have much experience with “We are the Champions.”
On that note, we hate the Lakers because they’ve won 14 championships while the Suns are still searching for that elusive first title, and their fans aren’t bashful to let us know.
Still, since the Barkley-KJ Renaissance in ’93, the Lakers have only beaten the Suns once in the playoffs, a 4-1 second-round decision when Los Angeles was on its way to the first of its three-peat in 2000 and the Suns were nowhere near a title team.
But with the natural rivalry and the way the Lakers have controlled this decade aside from the Suns’ peak under D’Antoni, it sure feels like a lot more.
Some of the Suns’ greatest early playoff victories have come against L.A., from the “Westphal Guarantee” comeback from a 2-0 deficit in 1993 on the way to the Finals to the 2005-06 team that came back from a 3-1 deficit in a crazy series that saw the Raja horse collar on Kobe, the missed timeout call in Game 4 before Kobe nailed the game-winner and the Game 6 miracle when Marion went up the elevator for the rebound of the season and Tim Thomas stuck the 3 to tie it.
I happened to watch that game at the place of my buddy who’s a huge Lakers fan with a bunch of Phoenix and L.A. fans, and the look on his face when the Suns ran away with a Game 7 victory made the season for me.
The Suns and Lakers have been the most consistent teams in the Pacific Division the last few decades, aside from a Sacramento Kings reign for a few years, and these teams should be the class of the division again this year.
That Phoenix-L.A. thing seems to permeate every sport this year, with the Suns and Lakers atop their division, the D-backs and Dodgers atop theirs this past season and the Cardinals and, oh, that’s right, Los Angeles doesn’t have a pro football team, unless you count USC.
The second the Suns acquired Shaquille O’Neal, this rivalry became spicy again, especially after the Lakers had dealt for Pau Gasol to push them into the realm of the contenders after being pretenders during the Suns’ previous four years of dominance.
Thursday’s nationally-televised showdown will be must-see TV to the casual basketball fan because of the Shaq-Kobe rivalry if not for the fact it should be a great basketball game.
It shall be interesting to see if any tensions remain after Shaq rapped this offseason about how “last week Kobe couldn’t do without me” and how “Kobe ratted me out, that’s why I’m getting divorced, he said Shaq gave a bitch a mil.”
Now in another strange twist in the Shaq-Kobe sage, Shaq last week told the Sacramento Bee his feud with Kobe “was all designed by Phil” Jackson. He also declined to answer whether he’d be open to a return to L.A. out of respect to the Suns, only saying “who knows,” but that still ended up making a headline on ESPN.
In any case, with the Lakers in town Thursday for the next chapter of the Kobe-Shaq soap opera one thing is for sure.
We won’t have to worry about the lack of energy the Suns showed in Utah.