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J.A. ADANDE

Bling, Bling . . . Clunk

Lakers get to lord their rings as they embark on journey to stamp their own particular brand of championship basketball.

November 02, 2000|J.A. ADANDE

Now that the new Lakers have their own championship they can finally lay claim to their own identity.

In the '80s, it was Winning Time. Now it's Bling Bling time.

Bling Bling. That's what it said on the side of the rings--their rings--which NBA Commissioner David Stern handed to them at Staples Center Wednesday night.

"It's definitely a new millennium, Generation X-type ring, with 'Bling Bling' on it," Laker guard Brian Shaw said.

The modern Lakers always had the burden of the championship banners and retired jerseys hanging over their heads. Tough legacies to follow, even tougher when those legends were quick to blast them after those playoff sweeps.

There's a new home for the Lakers, and now it's up to them to pick out the decorations. While the previous six championship banners won in Los Angeles are hanging in pairs, it's fitting that the new one they unveiled Wednesday night hangs by itself.

A whole new crew. Bling Bling.

The phrase, from a rap song by B.G., first came to Lakerland when Shaquille O'Neal recounted his summertime visit to Phil Jackson's Montana cabin and his first glimpse at Jackson's shiny championship hardware.

As the Lakers rolled on and Shaq put together a Most Valuable Player-type season, O'Neal was asked what these regular-season accomplishments would mean.

"Nothing, without the bling bling," he said.

Gotta have the diamonds. Bling bling became a mantra, then it became reality.

And now it's immortalized on their rings.

"I like that idea," Coach Phil Jackson said.

It shouldn't come as a surprise after the MC skills Zen Master P showed during the ring ceremony.

All of a sudden, he grabbed the microphone and broke out a rhyme.

The first shout-out went to Shaq--"He's carried this team on his back," Jackson said.

Next, "For leadership in triangle lore, to [Ron] Harper, ring No. 4."

Then, playing on former Executive Vice President Jerry West's nickname, "To Zeke the kid from Cabin Creek who built this team, they reached their peak.

"To my players, if they stay on track, we might win back to back.

"All you fans in your seats, with your support, I think we might just repeat."

Jackson's no dummy. He knew that on opening night Staples Center would be packed with recording industry executives, so he gave them all a demo. (If O'Neal can make rap albums, why not Phil?)

But he'd be better off leaving the singing to Jeffrey Osborne, who now has performed the national anthem at 20 consecutive Laker home openers.

It's a little different on ring nights.

"They have a special thing all to themselves," Osborne said. "There's nothing like it."

Osborne said he will get a ring this year, to go with the two rings he received for the Lakers' 1987 and 1988 championships. Osborne might be as deserving of a ring as any player. He's the team's lucky charm, their go-to guy for must-win games. To his recollection, the only time the Lakers lost a playoff game when he sang the anthem was when Magic Johnson was out with a pulled hamstring against the Detroit Pistons in 1989.

Osborne came through in the 2000 playoffs, providing the good omen for Laker victories in Game 5 against the Sacramento Kings and that memorable Game 7 against the Portland Trail Blazers.

But actually, his most remarkable accomplishment might have come at an All-Star weekend years ago, when he claims he got Stern to sing the chorus from "You Should Be Mine (The Woo Woo Song)."

Is this true?

"Absolutely," Stern said. "I was very good.

"Can you woo woo woo . . . "

Stern was in a good mood Wednesday night, probably because he got to enjoy the fun part of being commissioner again after a couple of weeks of dealing with secret contracts and controversial rap lyrics.

And there were good times in the Laker locker room, where John Salley was back to pick up his ring and add a little humor to the evening.

Everyone except the Utah Jazz felt the good vibes. It was one last chance for the Lakers to bask in the championship glow.

"There's something nice about listening to the lineups being announced and the games starting that continues on for another 80 games afterwards . . . that you're introduced as the champions, the reigning champions, of the NBA," Jackson said. "That part's nice.

"But as far as backward looks, celebrations about it, this is it."

The pregame ceremony fizzled out with a highlight reel set to the haunting theme from "Glory," followed by a another slow song performed live by Seal.

The game itself was even more of a downer for the home crowd. The Lakers sputtered along to 31 first-half points and a 97-92 loss to the Utah Jazz.

But the Lakers had to be distracted by the rings and let down after their big victory at Portland the night before.

If anything, their 1-1 record is more of a commentary on the Trail Blazers than the Lakers. For Portland not to win on Tuesday night, after letting that Game 7 loss marinate all summer long, is inexcusable.

Sure, Arvydas Sabonis and Scottie Pippen were injured, but Kobe Bryant had a terrible game, the Lakers committed 20 turnovers and Robert Horry was away at a funeral. Portland has to be concerned.

For the Lakers, they lost Wednesday. But they got their championship rings. The night wasn't all bad.

*

J.A. Adande can be reached at his e-mail address: ja.adande@latimes.com.

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