LA Pro Sports Needs A Return From Zombie Status

Tupac Shakur had a joint called, “To Live and Die in L.A.” on his final album before his death in ’96 called The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory.

The chorus went like this:

“To live and die in L.A., it’s the place to be

You’ve got to be there to know it, what everybody wants to see”

The song marked the beginning of a dope 15-year run for LA pro sports teams. The “new” Lakers Dynasty won three championships with Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal and another two with Pau Gasol. The Dodgers were competitive and made the playoffs six times during that span, advancing to back-to-back NLCS’ in ‘08 and ‘09. Toss in a World Series chip and consistent winning by the Angels and it seemed LA had too many teams to ever be starving for a winner.

Pac was right. It was the city every sports fan wanted to see. Pac never experienced how live Staples Center really got with its celebrity-stacked houses. It was a paparazzi’s dream, and hip-hop music was at a West Coast pentacle.

As recently as last season, the success of the Clippers, Lakers and Kings, were creating scheduling problems. The Staples Center was rocking nightly, with each team advancing to their league’s quarterfinal round.

This year, everything’s different. If not for the defending-Stanley Cup champion Kings repping hard in hockey—all you’d hear is maintenance mops and rodent feet echoing throughout the venue.

Dwight Howard and the Kobe-less Lakers suffered a humiliating first-round sweep. The high hopes for CP3 and Lob City were swatted away by Memphis.  

The prevailing thought was that the baseball season would return postseason passion to the city, because both the Dodger’s and Angel’s ownership were spending like Sheiks and building star-studded rosters.

The Dodgers new ownership, led by basketball icon Magic Johnson, paid $2 billion for the team and $215 million for their first opening-day roster.

The big fish was free agent Zack Greinke—who signed a six-year, $147 million contract—putting them in win or else territory.  

The Angel’s are in the same boat…or sinking ship. For the past two off-seasons Angels owner Arte Moreno has thrown crazy coin at Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton, in hopes of grabbing headlines and playoff glory. These moves even had the so-called “experts” considering the possibility of an all-LA World Series.

Both squads have responded to the cash-dash about as miserably as anyone could have imagined.

The Dodgers are 15-21 and in last place in the NL West and Mattingly is looking at the front door. Word on the MLB streets is the Angels (14-23, 4th-place in NL West) are considering dumping long-time manager Mike Scioscia if he doesn’t quickly flip the script.  

LA is not popping right now—and we didn’t even mention the recent play of USC football and how coaches treated the UCLA basketball job like a plague. Unless you dig the NHL, it might be a drought that lasts a while.

Kobe is at the end of his illustrious career and Howard hasn’t shown that he is “that dude.”  It seems Chris Paul is on the move again, jeopardizing the Clippers’ future as an elite squad.

There is one potential saving grace for the Angels and Dodgers. The beauty of baseball is that the long season allows teams to figure things out.  It’s a marathon dictated by patience and strategy. There are over 120 games to go and neither team is out of it.  

The Angels should have ace Jered Weaver back (fractured elbow) by June and Dodgers right-hander Greinke, (fractured collarbone) could return as early as Wednesday.   

Angels’ manager Mike Scioscia has also been hindered by having to deal with pitching injuries to projected closer Ryan Madson (Tommy John) and top setup man Sean Burnett (forearm inflammation).

Mattingly couldn’t have predicted he’d lose Greinke, Hanley Ramirez, Chad Billingsley or Jerry Hairston for extended periods of time.

Right now, the fortune of LA sports teams needs a tide-turner and if you’re fishing for hope in a sea of desperation, looking at the mega-deal aces to spark a change is as good as it gets. The stars are fluttering a bit in Tinsletown. With all of the dough getting tossed around, somebody needs to pay the light bill. That's mad ghetto. 

JR Gamble joined The Shadow League in 2012. The General Manager of Content & Social Media is in his 25th year of covering sports and culture professionally. He has covered a wide variety of major sports and entertainment topics across different mediums, including radio, newspapers, magazines and national TV. His passion is baseball, the culturing of baseball and preserving and documenting the historically-impactful accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans in baseball.