Playing for the Same Team Again

In Jerry L. Walls & Gregory Bassham (eds.), Basketball and Philosophy. Thinking Outside the Paint. University of Kentucky Press. pp. 220–234 (2007)
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How many championships have the Lakers won? Fourteen, if one counts those won in Minneapolis; nine, otherwise. Which is the correct answer? Is it even obvious that there is a correct answer? One is tempted to identify a team with its players. But teams, like ordinary objects, seem to survive gradual turnover of their parts. Suppose players from the Lakers are gradually replaced, one by one, over the years. We have the intuition that the team persists through this change, even after none of the original players remain. Suppose too that these original players wind up playing for the Celtics. Lakers fans face an awkward question: for whom should they root? On the one hand, they have the team currently playing in L.A.—a team that has continued gradually through the years, who wear the same uniforms, but now can’t make the playoffs. On the other hand, there are the beloved Lakers starting five (responsible for all those championships) now playing together in the hated Boston garden—a team which looks (despite wearing those hated Celtics jerseys) and plays just like the Lakers of old. What’s a loyal fan to do?
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