During the annual NBA rookie photo shoot, Bleacher Report’s Natalie Weiner used the most recent incarnation of a years-old debate to present Los Angeles Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball with a difficult choice. LeBron James or Kobe Bryant: who ya got, youngblood?
Usually, it’s Lonzo’s dad who says the stuff that ignites the populace. This time, though?
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“My favorite player was LeBron growing up,” Ball said. “But, I mean, [Michael Jordan] does have a point. Championships do mean a lot. But it’s tough. I mean, I’m a Laker, so I want to go with Kobe, but I’ve been saying LeBron my whole life, so I’m going to go with LeBron.”
You’re not going to believe this, but Lonzo speaking his truth didn’t go over super well with at least some segment of Laker fans:
Lonzo………. I love you….. but now I got my eye on you.
— Darren Carr (@DCarr75) August 11, 2017
……………………………and said it with a straight face and donning a Lakers jersey…. pic.twitter.com/8n4BGK5fh2
— Androgynous Royalty. (@VigorousMental) August 11, 2017
We didn't say he was bright. At least he can ball.
— Christian (@cj0473) August 13, 2017
— salt sr. (@JoePartipilo) August 11, 2017
trade his ass right now
— Matthew Rice (@MRiceNation) August 11, 2017
You in a lakers jersey you better pay some respect mamba
— Don Julio (@Eric4_Prez) August 12, 2017
This statement should count as a failed drug test.
— Duncan Pinderhughes (@_Quibus) August 12, 2017
Ball had to know that going with the Cleveland Cavaliers superstar over the Lakers legend wouldn’t be received too warmly by the hometown faithful. And yet, the choice makes sense. Yes, Lonzo grew up in Chino Hills, Calif., squarely in the pocket of Laker Nation during Kobe’s run at the head of the franchise and the NBA. But three of Kobe’s five championship-winning seasons came before Lonzo (born Oct. 27, 1997) had even entered first grade, whereas he’s been able to see James’ whole career as he’s grown and developed.
The ways in which he’s grown and develop matter, too. Ball’s game, predicated on preternatural court vision and a seemingly limitless desire to set up his teammates, shares more with LeBron’s approach than it does with Kobe’s M.J.-style one-on-one scoring attack. As great as it would be to have that kind of relentless offensive weapon on hand, Lonzo’s preferred style seems a perfect match for a rebuilding L.A. squad in desperate need of a catalyst who can transform a young and inexperienced Lakers roster into something more than the sum of its disparate parts.
Besides, Lakers fans: only one of the two options on offer is actually still playing … and actually (reportedly, at least) considering a move to Hollywood to join the cap-space-clearing purple and gold in unrestricted free agency next summer.
“Hey, man, LeBron,” Ball said on “SportsCenter” back in June when asked what kind of pitch he’d make to the King. “I like to win. I know you like to win. I think our games could help each other out a lot, and anytime you want the ball, just let me know. It’s gonna be there.”
Whether the draw of “home” and the chance to slot in alongside a playmaker like Ball (and maybe a wing partner like Paul George Paul George?) is strong enough to convince LeBron to leave what looks like an increasingly rocky situation in Northeast Ohio remains to be seen. For now, though, those who ride for Kobe can wrestle with the difficulty of squaring Lonzo’s allegiances with his status as the hope for the hometown team … and those who don’t can applaud the 19-year-old for deciding to publicize his appreciation for LeBron on the off-chance it improves the Lakers’ recruitment efforts, even if it means navigating some choppy waters in the months ahead. Speaking what you want into existence even if it means getting some blowback: truly, a Big Baller move.
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