There is no doubt that Los Angeles prides itself on its sports teams. From the college level to the professional level, sports are an integral part of Angeleno culture. With friendly rivalries—between the USC Trojans and UCLA Bruins, Lakers and Clippers and Dodgers and Angels—our city is filled with passion for athletics and team pride. Whether individuals are devoted fans of L.A. teams or not, the sports culture in our city connects and unifies us across boundaries that can often seem insurmountable.
When the tragic news of the death of basketball legend and future Hall-of-Famer Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna spread just over a month ago, we saw avid Lakers fans and casual observers alike impacted immensely.
Celebrities spoke out in his memory, teary-eyed fans flocked to the Staples Center with thousands of personal tributes, and artists created mural artwork to celebrate the lost lives.
Throughout the days following the tragedy, it was visible that many of our peers were moved by his passing. Some even showed up to school wearing his jersey or other Lakers gear in his honor. On Jan. 29, to honor the late legend, our very own varsity boys’ basketball team wore his jersey during warmups. Before tipoff, there was a 26-second moment of silence, honoring Bryant and his daughter’s jersey numbers, 24 and two respectively. Nearly a month after the tragic event, Angelenos were brought together in remembrance of Kobe’s greatest moments as a father, husband and Los Angeles hero at the Celebration of Life on Feb. 24. Among the thousands of people who visited Bryant’s memorial outside of Staples Center, differences of skin color, gender and socioeconomic status dissipated into thin air.
As people from all walks of life joined together in mourning a sports legend, our city once again highlighted how we are rooted in sports culture, but one that spreads far beyond cheering on the athletes representing our hometown.
Similarly, in wake of the Major League Baseball cheating scandal, Dodgers fans were brought together over the hope that the Houston Astros’ 2017 World Series championship would be vacated as a result of their illegal sign stealing. As painful as the 2017 Game Seven loss may have been at the time for the city, the fact that the Dodgers missed out on claiming its first World Series title since 1988 hurt fans even more knowing the Astros were caught cheating. On March 26, the Astros will play in Anaheim on Opening Day. Flocks of Dodgers fans have purchased tickets to the game and plan to express their outrage at the scandal and the Astros’ behavior. And, by swarming the stadium, Angelenos will stand unified against the immorality of cheating. In a way, their cloud of bright blue blemishing the orange crowd of the Astros fans will project the message that we will not tolerate the principle of gaining unfair advantages, especially when they violate the standards of nationally-accepted rules. As a city, we have come together not only to stand by our team but also our values and our ethics.
While Bryant’s passing and the MLB cheating scandal have united the L.A. community, the teams themselves have had their own reactions. The Lakers are using Bryant’s legacy as inspiration to compete in the NBA Finals, and the Dodgers are using their resentment and anger as fuel to win the 2020 World Series title.
Ultimately, L.A. coheres itself around sports. LED light displays on Metro buses show phrases like “Go Dodgers,” during the season exhibit the entire city’s spirit and builds excitement in support of our team. We flock to stadiums, sport jerseys on the regular and get into heated debates over trades and draft picks.
In L.A., a city that’s population is so often characterized by our differences from one another, sports culture plays a unique role. It gives us players, teams and dynasties that we can unite around, but past that, it gives us ideals to look up to.
From tragedies and misfortune in the local sports community recently, one positive consequence has emerged: our city’s loyalty to the teams we admire and our fellow fans is stronger than ever.