Follow Martin Rogers on Twitter at @mrogersyahoo
VANCOUVER, British Columbia – When a bunch of the NBA's favorite sons were asked last week which Winter Olympic sport they could have excelled at, there were not too many takers for figure skating.
The thrills and spills of Alpine skiing, bobsled and snowboarding were the preferred options for most of these luminaries as they took time out from the All-Star Weekend's festivities for a bit of innocent hypothesizing.
Yet when Evan Lysacek begins his bid for gold in the men's singles figure skating competition Tuesday night, he does so with the backing of the most storied hoops franchise of them all.
The Los Angeles Lakers operate in a private world revolving entirely around the pursuit of success, yet the organization and players have opened their doors to Lysacek – like them a reigning world champion – and a surprising bond has been struck.
Lysacek prepared for the Winter Olympics under the tutelage of coach Frank Carroll at the Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo, Calif., the same state-of-the-art facility that the Lakers and the NHL's Los Angeles Kings use for their training sessions.
Lakers head coach Phil Jackson has allowed Lysacek to use the gym and weight room for his off-ice strength workouts when Kobe Bryant and Co. aren't using them.
"It is pretty inspirational for me to train at the same complex as such a legendary team and such a successful group," Lysacek told Yahoo! Sports. "There are a lot of things you can draw motivation from as a figure skater and seeing people excel at what they do because of the hard work they put in is good for you mentally."
Lysacek has become a huge Lakers fan, regularly using his Twitter account to voice his support for the team. After his victory in the World Figure Skating Championships at the Staples Center in Los Angeles last year, he returned to the same venue days later to present the first ball for Game 5 of the Lakers' first-round playoff series against the Utah Jazz.
Figure skating and basketball have audiences as different as they come, yet the Illinois native-turned-Californian's power, athleticism and timing are facets the Lakers can appreciate.
"We have seen him and we know about what he does," said Lamar Odom, whom Lysacek lists along with Bryant as his favorite sportsmen. "As an athlete you can respect excellence in any sport and the level of dedication and preparation it takes to be one of the best."
Lysacek still is debating whether to attempt his high-risk, high-reward quad jump in the Olympics, a spectacular maneuver that he has yet to fully perfect. While there is a high element of artistry in men's figure skating, some of Lysacek's more difficult jumps contain a level of technical proficiency not so far removed from seeing Bryant soar to the rim for a dunk.
"He is a strong guy," Lakers guard Jordan Farmar said. "He gets pretty good air on those jumps."
Lysacek placed fourth overall after a disastrous short program in Turin four years ago. Now 24, he feels that this is his time. He will square off with France's Brian Joubert and Evgeni Plushenko, the dynamic Russian who is a clear favorite for gold.
Americans Johnny Weir and Jeremy Abbott also are hopeful of forcing their way into the medals when the short program gets under way Tuesday, with the free skate completing the men's program on Thursday.
In other words, it's wide open.
"I don't think anyone is unbeatable right now because of the way the sport is judged," Lysacek said. "A positive grade of execution can make up for a quad. This is going to be my strategy. I looked back at the score sheets, saw where I gained points and saw they were more valuable than the quad.
"The biggest thing is going to be the mentality. It is important to know what it involves to be a winner, and my experiences and preparations have equipped me for that."