In front of the Staples Center in Los Angeles there is a series of bronze statues, inescapable for tourists, that make clear who they consider Los Angeles Lakers to be a true legend. There are Jerry West, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson and Shaquille O'Neal. For now there is no more. Along with these statues, Alfonso Ruiz, 85, and his wife Alicia waited on Saturday afternoon for the doors to open. They come to basketball since the seventies. They have seen them all play. This Saturday they had two tickets to watch the first official match of the Labrothers of Lebron James at home, that ended with defeat of the locals (115-124) Despite the 24 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists that the Angelina signed.
"We want the championship, that's why they brought it"Said Ruiz. "People will not accept anything other than the championship. But I do not think I'll get it the first year. " That is the expectation of a team with 16 titles that has been a shadow of what it was for eight years. This Saturday, the Staples Center was filled with the atmosphere of great moments. With Magic Johnson in the stands and Jack Nicholson on the track to see the beginning of a new era.
At 33, with 15 seasons in the NBA, 9 finals and 3 titles, James comes to Los Angeles to take charge of a team of millenials to finish breaking the statistics of the competition with the most glamorous basketball jersey in the United States. A generation of Angelenos wants to live what their older brothers lived with Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal, or what their parents lived with Johnson and Abdul-Jabbar. Like Luis Parra, 22, who was coming for the first time to a match of his team. "He has to bring us the championship. He has four years to do it. "
That was the feeling of fans in a city that has been papered with the face of the new star of the Lakers. In the center of the city there are giant announcements of Coors and Beats with the image of James. Nike has a gigantic screen that surrounds a whole building in front of the Staples in which the new announcement of James was projected in loop. In front of the entrance, the fans bought T-shirts with the 23 in positions open in the street only for the occasion. On Saturday you could not drive through downtown Los Angeles and not find out what LeBron was going to play.
With James, the Lakers aspire to finally have a chance to dispute the victory in the Western Conference to the Golden State Warriors, a team that is expected to start to decline this season after an amazing five years in which he has won four consecutive years. In three of them, they won the NBA final. The year they lost was against the LeBron James Cavaliers.
In the morning they asked James what the people could expect from his first official game at home. "Wait … greatness," he replied. There was no greatness in the season opener leave me alone. Against the Houston Rockets they lost the second game of the season as well as the first in a very entertaining match that unfortunately will be remembered for a fistfight between Rajon Rondo and Chris Paul to which Brandon Ingram joined. Those will be the viral images of James' debut in Los Angeles.
The match went far beyond the usual fans. It was a global event. In seats 13 and 14 of row A, in folding chairs at the height of the track, were watching the game Hyuk Soo-Kwon, 32, and his wife Myo Shin-Kim, 30. They had flown from Seoul, where they live, to celebrate their first wedding anniversary. Visit to Las Vegas, James t-shirts and some seats that Soo-Kwon does not want to say how much they have cost. "It's a secret," he said pointing to his wife.
A roar enveloped the Staples Center when the presenter pronounced the name of Lebron James. Thousands of shirts with number 23 applauded every ball James touched in the first five minutes. The advertising screens showed a video in which James was presented as "a new king and a new promise to bring the NBA trophy back to Los Angeles". During the performance of the United States anthem, the camera focused on James' face for a moment and the cries of the audience crushed the song for a few seconds.
The arrival of LeBron James has multiplied by three the price of tickets for the Lakers. The average for Saturday's match was $ 526.73 in legal resale, according to information from Los Angeles Times. ESPN raised the figure to $ 734. Alfonso Ruiz was lucky. He bought season tickets before the Lakers signed LeBron. It has seats of 74 dollars and it thinks to sell them by 20 dollars more each party that does not go.
At the top of the Staples are the 11 numbers that the Lakers have removed from their jerseys so no one can take them back. Saturday began the path so that one day the 23 will be there. Outside, there is still room for more statues. As Alfonso Ruiz says, that is such an expensive honor that "they did not give it to James Worthy". Lakers fans will again fill the venue many times this season looking for the "greatness" promised by James. He is a legend of the NBA. His figures indicate that he can become the best of all time. But Saturday began, from scratch, the way to be a legend of the Lakers.