The Los Angeles Lakers announced this week that they will take part in the seventh annual Noche Latina (Latin Night). The Lakers will play three games wearing their "Los Lakers" jerseys starting Sunday against the Atlanta Hawks.
"The NBA’s inclusion of the Lakers in its month-long slate of Noche Latina games is the perfect opportunity for our organization to recognize its tremendous Hispanic fan base," said Tim Harris, Lakers senior vice president of business operations and chief marketing officer.
The US Census Bureau reported that the Hispanic population in the United States grew to more than 52 million in 2011, the year for which the most recent data is available. And as of 2011, 38 percent of Californians were Hispanic.
So it is easy to see why the Lakers and their community of supporters have embraced this inclusive tradition.
As recently as the Dr. Jerry Buss memorial, the Lakers’ respect for their Hispanic following was publicly acknowledged and applauded. Spanish superstar Pau Gasol delivered his speech in Spanish in order to more closely connect with the growing population of Hispanic Laker fans.
"From broadcasting games on the radio in Spanish for nearly two decades to creating a team-dedicated Spanish language television network in Time Warner Deportes, the Lakers are committed to giving Hispanic fans unprecedented access," Harris said. "Noche Latina is our opportunity to say 'thank you' to Angelinos and fans around the world of Hispanic heritage for their passionate and unwavering support."
Los Lakers are one of seven teams celebrating the culturally expansive tradition. They're joined by Los Bulls, El Heat, Nueva York, El Magic, Los Suns and Los Spurs.
The Lakers will play in their "Los Lakers" uniforms for three straight Sundays starting March 3 against the Atlanta Hawks. Noche Latina will continue when the Chicago Bulls come to town on March 10, and the celebration of Latin culture will officially conclude on March 17 against the Sacramento Kings.
Unofficially, though, anyone who has spent extended time in downtown Los Angeles would probably argue that the Hispanic-themed celebration of the Los Angeles Lakers is a welcomed year-round practice.