Lakers blog profile: Puddle made Jerry West laugh
This is the tenth post in a weekly series that helps you get to know members of the L.A. Times Lakers blog community. Feel free to send submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Screen name: puddle
Real name: Phil
Hometown: Woodland Hills
Story behind your screen name: My initials are PDL, which if spoken as a word sounds like “puddle”. I’ve very jealous of my brother, whose initials GSL sound like “Gasol”, or even my dad, whose initials WFL sound like “waffle”. Mmmm, waffles.
How I became a Lakers fan: I became a basketball fan when I started playing in 3rd grade (1993). I became an NBA fan when I watched Dream Team II (yeah, I missed out on the REAL Dream Team), a team that had Alonzo Mourning and Larry Johnson – two Charlotte Hornets players. I loved those guys so much I even wanted a hi-top fade like ‘Zo had, despite the fact that my hair is blond and wavy. So even though I liked the Lakers, I became a huge Hornets fan. In 1995, however, Charlotte traded Alonzo to Miami and I cried. That day I vowed to never root for the Hornets again (I eventually tore down my Charlotte Hornets wallpaper in my room) and began to root SOLELY for my hometown Lakers. The Hornets, to me, were kind of like the first serious girlfriend you have – you know, the one you loved but who broke your heart but ultimately made you a wiser better man. The Lakers are like the soul-mate.
Favorite Lakers memory of all time and of the 2009-2010 season: Favorite Lakers memory of all time is when Kobe lobbed that alley-oop to Shaq to cap the Lakers Game 7 comeback vs. the Blazers in 2000. I always pace around during Lakers games – especially in the playoffs – and in this game, I was a complete madman. If I remember right, the Lakers were down 16 at the end of the 3rd quarter, when Brian Shaw banked in a 3. For some reason, I just knew they were going to come back. When Kobe connected with Shaq on that alley-oop, I ran around outside screaming and jumping around like a crazy person. I’ve never experienced such an emotional high from any other Laker moment. (Sidenote: Does anyone remember how spectacular Kobe was in that game? How about 25 points, 11 rebs, 7 ast, 4 blk?) My favorite memory of this last season was definitely Ron Artest’s interview after Game 7. His joy bordered on delirium. I could relate.
Most heartbreaking Lakers experience: It may sound weird, but when Kobe was charged with sexual assault, it was not just the shock and disappointment of that incident but the dismay that I couldn't enjoy that the Lakers just signed Malone and Payton. I was so excited about that season just days earlier, and to go from so high to so low felt like a punch to the groin.
Favorite Lakers player: This is a tough one. Of course I love Kobe. But I end up really liking players who are great, genuine, down-to-earth people who know their roles, do it to the best of their ability, and make great contributions to winning Laker teams. Pau Gasol and Derek Fisher are my favorite Lakers currently. Over the years I’ve loved Brian Shaw, Rick Fox, Robert Horry, Trevor Ariza (I was pretty bummed to see him go), and Ron Harper. Ron Artest is really growing on me, and I think I’ll really love Steve Blake.
Greatest all-time Laker: Magic. No question. I'm just sad I didn't get to see him live until his brief return in ’95-’96, when he, of course, just wasn't the same. But I’ve watched probably 50 or so Laker games from the 80s, and I’m truly amazed by the things he could do. Last time you went to a game at Staples Center and at the Forum: Forum? Lakers vs. Hornets in 1995. Staples Center? Game 2, 2010 Playoffs, First Round vs. OKC. I go to 4 or 5 Laker games per year, but as an LA Kings season ticket holder, I’m at Staples all the time.
Opposing team, player you dislike the most: Boston Celtics. Paul Pierce. Everything about Pierce annoys me, from his flopping and flailing, to his doughy physique, to his perpetually whiny face, to his irritating disrespect for the Lakers, to his ridiculously over-inflated ego.
Interactions with Lakers players: I've met and have autographs from Kobe, Shaq, Horry, Shaw, Fox, Eddie Jones, Fisher, and the rest of the 1996-1997 Lakers. Also met and have autographs from Magic (2x), Kareem (no autograph - he was mean! haha), Jamaal Wilkes, Norm Nixon, Elgin Baylor and, my favorite, Jerry West… When I met Jerry West, I knew who he was but I didn’t know how GREAT he was. I was only 8 or 9, and I was at a USC basketball game with my mom, which he happened to be attending. While we were in line for food, my mom leans over to me and says, “Hey, that’s Jerry West right there! You should go up and ask him for his autograph!... Now be polite!” I was a shy kid, so I sheepishly walked up to him and barely audibly said “Mr. West, will you please sign this ticket for my mom?” He got a kick out of this, laughed, knelt down and asked me what my name was. I told him and he said to me, “Ok Philip, here you go. But this is for you, ok? Don’t let your mama steal it away!” I nodded and he smiled, put his hands on my shoulders and sent me on my way. I walked away staring at the ticket. If I had truly known what I had in my hands, I wouldn’t have done what I did next: I let my mom hold on to it that night. Of course, she lost it and all I have now is the memory that I made Jerry West laugh.
Most cherished piece of Lakers memorabilia I have: It would have been that ticket that Jerry West signed, but now it’s probably the ball I have autographed by the entire 1996-1997 Lakers team. I met each one individually and they each signed the ball. Horry was the nicest of them all. He had a magnetic smile that instantly made him one of my favorites.
Memorable story about being a Lakers fan: Before the 2010 Finals, my friend – a huge Celtics fan – and I had a bet that essentially amounted to an enormous and expensive game of poker. It went like this: $50 goes to the fan of the winning team at the end of the series, however, after each game, the fan of the winning team can raise the bet by as much as he or she wants. The fan of the losing team can either accept the raise (call) or agree to pay out before the end of the series (fold), and be free of the original $50 bet. After Game 1, I raised $50. He called. After Game 2, he raised $50. I called. After Game 3, I raised $100. He very reticently called. After Game 4, he raised $100. I called. After Game 5, he raised $100. At this point, with the Lakers down 3-2, I had a very scary decision to make. I could either pay out the $300 now (I wouldn’t have to pay the $100 raised after Game 5 OR the original $50), or I could take the risk of being out $450 should the Lakers lose at home in Game 6, or even more if I raised again and they lost in Game 7. But I just had faith they’d come through at home, so I called. After Game 6, I raised $100. He called. We both now had $550 riding on the outcome of Game 7. Yikes! I’m not a rich man, and I’m not usually reckless, so if the Lakers lost, I might not have come out of my bedroom for days. Mid-way through the 3rd quarter, I thought my worst nightmare was coming true, as the Lakers fell behind by 13. To make matters worse, I get a text message from him (which I saved and have on my phone to this day), and it read “I hope u already visited the atm cuz ur about to pay me them $$$! Bos pwns LA. HAHAHAHA” I was sick to my stomach. And then it started – the Lakers began to fight back. I could feel the color return to my face. I screamed and jumped and yelled with every play. And you know the rest of the story. Artest hits a monster 3, Gasol makes a nearly impossible shot with Celtics draped all over him, Sasha sinks two free throws, and I’m $550 richer. Sweetest money I ever made.
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Photo: Phil, left, with his wife, Reese. Phil also has two kids named Javier and Felipe. Courtesy: Phil.