Visitors to the Staples Center haven’t had much to cheer for since April 13, 2016. Kobe Bryant’s final game set in motion a new era in Los Angeles, one guided by youth and rebuilding that is taking years to manifest into a winning product.
Little did they know, Jamal Murray was to become a local fan favorite.
Three months ago in Denver, Murray nonchalantly dribbled out the clock in a win over the Los Angeles Lakers. As time expired, Murray added some pizzaz to his bounce, weaving the ball around one Lonzo Ball en route to a 15-point win.
The disrespect, however casual, wasn’t taken lightly by Lakers Nation. In the December contest coach Luke Walton directed Brandon Ingram and Julius Randle to effectively mug Murray, signalling a non-verbal, “Hey! Don’t you do that to my guys.”
So, when Murray returned to Los Angeles to face the Lakers last night, his every touch of the nine-inch composite leather sphere was met with a chorus of boos and chants. The cacophony of, “MURRAY SUCKS! MURRAY SUCKS!” vibrated the arena, turning a recently demure LA crowd into their ravenous NCAA counterparts.
The boos did little to upset Murray’s game. He finished the night with 18 points on 45 percent shooting, in addition to his 6 rebounds and four assists.
As the evening’s nightcap, Isaiah Thomas tossed the rock to Murray, a move that symbolically echoed the Lakers’ sentiments of, “Don’t screw with us.”
Murray might have earned the loudest jeers in Staples this season, but Kyle Kuzma is also revitalizing fans with his namesake. “Kuuuuuuz” regularly roars through the arena as the 27th pick on the 2017 draft launches threes or drives to the lane.
Indeed, Kuzma and Murray have created an alternate universe, one in which Lakers fans are 10 years younger and prone to scream “MVP” every night. The Lakers are still a work in progress, but a nightly tonic of good old-fashioned hype and animosity can inspire fandom at any level.