Lakers blog profile: Wes Joe Nixon has an uncomfortable interaction with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
This is the 19th 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: Wes Joe Nixon
Real name: Well, that's debatable. I was born Wes Nixon but when I reached the ripe old age of 5 my mother let my brother and I choose any middle name we deemed proper. My older brother took the easy way out by choosing the family name "Wayne," while I took the more rugged path and became Wes "GI Joe" Nixon, or, Wes Joe Nixon. On a side note, I was almost named Chad, and I thank the heavens every day that I wasn't, because when it's all said and done, who really wants to be a white guy named Chad?
Occupation: Again, this is debatable. I write male-centric articles for a local Indiana wedding magazine called "Veils and Vows," I teach writing and math to adults three days a week, and I'm in the final stages of opening "The Beautiful Bagel," a small bagel outfit that specializes in authentic 19th century N.Y. and Montreal style bagels. Mmmm.
Hometown: I'm a Valley dude, 100%. San Fernando to be specific. That was me in the early '80s on the bus heading to either Zuma beach or the Sherman Oaks Galleria. And I wouldn't trade a childhood in the SF Valley in the early '80s for anything on Earth. Not only was the world your oyster, but that oyster was available to explore 12 months a year, unlike Northern Indiana, where God closes up shop from November through February.
Story behind your screen name: See above paragraph. Though I will add that I was named after the Los Angeles Dodgers' first baseman of old, Wes Parker.
How I became a Lakers fan: How does one not become a Laker fan living in Los Angeles? My theory about Laker fandom is that there are actually very few bandwagon fans because as a fan base we've never had a chance to jump off the Laker bus. For 95% of us, we became Laker fans during one of many championship runs and never let go. I was also that nerdy kid in junior high school who snuck the AM radio into the cafeteria at lunch time, though it was mostly for the Dodgers back then.
Laker games were just not available during school hours, a real crime in my book -- though this did mean that many a night-time college class was witnessed with one ear filled with Chick live. I will say that my whole family has always loved Southern California sports teams, beginning with my grandma, who used to serve pea soup on Tuesday nights to the Rams' legendary Fearsome Foursome in a little coffee shop that's still kickin' on the old San Fernando Road. I was watching Rams, Dodgers, UCLA, USC and Lakers games from the first moment my eyes opened to the world.
Favorite Lakers memory of all time and of the 2009-2010 season: 1) All-time: Tough choice. Robert Horry's shot against Sac Town was the most pure joy that I remember, but I'll say my favorite moment from last year is also my favorite moment -- for the time being -- of all time. This moment is Kobe Bryant's two-point shot in Game 7 over good Ray Allen defense with 5:23 left in the game. Don't be surprised. It was right then and there that I felt the first warm shimmer of hope run down my spine that maybe we could win that monumental game. It was the first double-digit lead of the fourth quarter -- a lead we never let go of. It was the shot that said, "Kobe's bad offensive game has ended -- because it's clutch time." I hadn't even been able to watch much of the game, but for 7-10 minutes total, until that shot went in. The joy that came from that shot has not faded yet. But other, odder memories refuse to fade also, like Wes Mathews being strangled on live TV by Xavier McDaniel, Orlando Woolridge's jump shots with massively inflated biceps, an odd-shaved eyebrow on the top of Nick Van Exel's face.
Most heartbreaking Lakers experience: I'm old and I only let good memories into my brain. But I will say the Suns team with KJ and Majerle that eliminated the Showtime Lakers still makes me feel uncomfortable.
Favorite Lakers player: Ron Artest. Come on, he's like you and me. He let fans in 100% on his championship run last year, and for that I'll put him in a special place in the Lakers pantheon.
Greatest all-time Laker: Benoit Benjamin. Hey, someone had to say it!
Last time you went to a game at Staples Center and at the Forum: I spent many a night walking into the Forum to see rock concerts, but very few Laker games. Hey, we had Chick on the radio, no need to fork over a month's worth of allowance there. The legends I saw back then were all about Rock n' Roll. Triumph, Billy Squire, Ratt and Lita Ford, Pat Benatar, Tom Petty, Pink Floyd, Roger Waters, Dylan, Bon Jovi, Cinderella, Foreigner, John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band ... Sorry Buss ...
Opposing team, player you dislike the most: At this point it's all about the Heat. The dancing on stage just weeks after the Lakers won the title really rubbed me wrong. The world champions didn't even dance around on stage, but the Heat found time to. Something is wrong with that picture. The Celtics have at least earned everything they have, the Heat are trying to grow it illegally. Player: LeBron, easily. That "Decision" he partook in had all the decorum of a father choosing between the mistress and the wife at Thanksgiving dinner.
Interactions with Lakers players: Oh, this is the big one here. I'm sure a lot of the regulars have heard my Kareem Abdul Jabbar / Nagasaki rant. I'll be brief in my retelling, if for no other reason than to save the children from the true horrors I endured at the hands of one Laker legend. There I was in 1997, on my way to become the monk you see [in the picture right] and Kareem was doing some kind of NBA legends tour of Asia. Being a long-time Laker fan I thought he would be approachable, but man was I wrong. The second I mentioned "Laker fan" and "autograph" he looked at me like I was a cup of spoiled shrimp cocktail (with the poop still inside the shrimp) and turned 180 degrees so that his giant carmel-colored butt orbs were directly in my face. Well, maybe more near my stomach, but you get the point. I walked away and still haven't recovered. Do I have a lawsuit here?
Most cherished piece of Lakers memorabilia I have: None, zero, zilch. I am not a collector of anything, anywhere that doesn't have something to do with movies. I need all my art to be utilitarian. If I can't use it, I don't want it. I might even say that my most cherished part of the Lakers that I sort of carry with me is all the people I chat with on this blog. I mean, the entire world is here, and each person has so much life experience to share with each other.
Memorable stories about being a Lakers fan: I think my most most cherished memory of being a laker fan came anonymously when I was traveling through Asia in 1997. There was no great "Wes standing at the top of the mountain declaring his love for the Lakers moment," but there were two Western things I kept close to me during those days -- my love of all things related to Southern California sports and a nose that could always sniff out a Dunkin' Donuts coffee shop. Anyone who has traveled through Asia or Europe knows the pleasure of being in some distant ancient land and stumbling across a Dunkin' Donuts coffee shop. And there was almost always an English language sports page lying around that had Dodger and Laker stats hold up on the last page, like it was waiting for some Westerner to wander in and decode all its secrets. And that's my story in brief.
My name is Wes, and I'm a Lakerholic.
E-mail the Lakers blog at email@example.com
Photos courtesy of Wes Joe Nixon. Wes says he performed on Lee Oskar's "My Road, Our Road" album. Said Wes: "That's me, my brother and sister, cousins and friends singing harmony on "Children's Song (You Can Find Your Way)."