Los Angeles Lakers Facing an Unprecedented Identity Crisis

EL SEGUNDO, Calif.—They are the purple and they are the gold.

Especially the gold. They’ve won 16 of the 67 NBA championship trophies to date.

When you think of the legendary Los Angeles Lakers, the last thing you think of is an identity crisis.

Here’s the reality of today: Aging face of the franchise Kobe Bryant is coming off an injury usually so devastating that he might as well grow his afro back in the shape of a big question mark.

The new collective bargaining agreement and revenue-sharing system together severely limit the Lakers’ ability to outspend opponents in free agency.

And the greatest owner in sports history is gone and has left behind instability atop an organization that is waiting to see which of his children can really stand the heat.

Oh, and after all the dedication to maintain a consistent, classic style, they are trotting out black uniforms this season.

The Lakers are certainly in no imminent danger of losing the popularity of their global brand. And every organization, even the best of the best, must undergo ruts and makeovers.

But the Lakers need something to happen and happen pretty soon to remind everyone they are still the Lakers.

More than one somebody, when given an opportunity, has to seize it and do so much with it that it reassures Lakers fans that there is still something truly unique about the Purple and Gold.

“I knew Steve Nash would be special as a Laker!”

“Nick Young has played for a lot of teams, but it took him coming to the Lakers to become a star!”

“Forget Dwight Howard! Pau Gasol is playing like the champion he is! (And he’s going to re-sign for a cap-friendly minimum salary in 2014 and then recruit brother Marc to sign as a free agent in 2015!)”

In the vacuum of the post-Dwight era, the Lakers ...

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