FanPost

Laker Player Background Checks


After hearing that DJ Mbenga was on death row in the Democratic Republic of the Congo when he was younger, I wondered what other, if any, interesting stories I could find about current Laker players. I did most of my searching at Wikipedia and came across some, not many, interesting stories. Most of them aren't as interesting as DJ's, but it is always intriguing to find out where certain players have come from and what they had to go through.

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via sillyfox.files.wordpress.com

Didier Llunga-Mbenga (aka DJ, Congo Cash)
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via media.monstersandcritics.com

DJ was raised in Zaire, now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where his father was a government employee. When a new regime took over, they sought to kill everyone who worked for the previous leader. As unrest escalated, DJ's father was incarcerated. Although he was unable to save himself, DJ's father did manage to negotiate for his sons' lives, who were waiting to be executed by the new regime. DJ was able to flee the country, and received asylum in Belgium. While living in a refugee center, he was discovered by Belgian basketball legend Willy Steveniers, who eventually served as DJ's personal basketball mentor. DJ has played basketball since he was 19 (1999), and has played in the NBA for 7 years (3 with Dallas, 1 with Golden State & 3 with LA). Before making it to the NBA, DJ played 5 years of basketball in Belgium.
DJ founded The Mbenga Foundation, which offers help to Congolese children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and those who are refugees in Belgium (as DJ had been). DJ speaks five languages (French, Portuguese, English, Langala and Tshiluba). In the 2006 playoffs, DJ was suspended 6 games without pay for entering the stands. He saw coach Avery Johnson's wife being disturbed by some fans, and reportedly went into the stands with owner Mark Cuban to help usher Mrs. Johnson to the locker room. Regardless of his intentions, he was suspending for six games without pay. This just goes to show you what kind of man DJ truly is. DJ is definitely a fan favorite in LA, especially when the "taco unit" is on the floor and bloggers at SS&R are posting "dacos".

Ronald William Artest Jr (aka Ron-Ron)
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via home.comcast.net

Artest was born and raised in the Queensbridge projects in Queens, New York. Artest has 2 younger brothers, Isaiah and Daniel. He played high school basketball at La Salle Academy and college basketball at St. John's University from 1997–1999, majoring in mathematics (really?). In 1999 he helped the Red Storm to the Elite Eight, losing to Ohio State. He gained fame playing in some of New York City's high profile summer basketball tournaments. He earned himself nicknames such as Tru Warier and The New World Order.
As a teenager, he was teamed with Elton Brand and Lamar Odom on the same AAU (amateur athletic union) team. Ron has played 13 years in the NBA (3 with Chicago, 5 with Indiana, 3 with Sacramento, 1 with Houston and 1 with LA). He his known worldwide for the rumble at the Palace of Auburn Hills. Artest is currently endorsed by Chinese athletics brand Peak along with teammate Sasha Vujacic. In 2008, Artest appeared in a video promoting companion animal spaying and neutering for PETA entitled "Have the balls to spay or neuter your dog". (lol)

Shannon Brown (aka Shanwow, UPS)
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via a.espncdn.com

Shannon was born and raised in Maywood, Illinois. He is known for having one of the highest vertical leaps, verified at 44.5 inches (holy crap!). Shannon attended Proviso East High School in Maywood, where his teammates included fellow 2006 draftee Dee Brown (no relation). In 2003, he was named Illinois Mr. Basketball and a McDonald's All-American. He played college basketball for the Michigan State Spartans.
He was drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers (thanks for releasing him). Shannon has been in the NBA for 6 years (2 with Cleveland, 1 with Chicago, 1 with Charlotte and 2 with LA). Along with DJ, Brown is also a fan favorite. Most are excited to see what he can do with his leaping ability in the All-Star Slam Dunk Contest this year.

Kobe Bean Bryant (aka Black Mamba, KB)
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via img.auctiva.com


Kobe Bryant was born in Philadelphia as the youngest of three children and the only son of former 76ers player Joe "Jellybean" Bryant. His parents named him after the famous beef of Kobe, Japan, which they saw on a restaurant menu. When Bryant was six, his father left the NBA and moved his family to Italy to begin playing professional basketball. Bryant became accustomed to his new lifestyle and learned to speak Italian and Spanish fluently. Bryant started playing basketball when he was 3 years old. However, he was a huge soccer fan. He has said that if he had stayed in Italy, he would have tried to become a professional soccer player. Upon Joe Bryant's retirement from playing basketball in 1991, the Bryant family moved back to the US.
Bryant played high school basketball at Lower Merion in Philadelphia and entered the NBA draft after his senior year in high school. He was originally drafted by the Charlotte Hornets, but was traded to the Lakers for Vlade Divac ( thank you very much Charlotte). Kobe has been in the NBA for 14 years, all with the LA Lakers. He has won 4 championships with the Lakers.

Andrew Lee Bynum (aka Drew, AB)
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via kimlephotography.com

Drew was born in Livingston, New Jersey. Bynum began playing basketball at an early age. He attended Solebury School in Pennsylvania for his freshman and sophomore years. He later attended St. Joseph's High School in New Jersey for his junior and senior years. He originally had planned to attend the University of Connecticut, but decided to enter the NBA draft after his senior year in high school. He was drafted 10th overall by the Lakers. He is the youngest player in NBA history to be drafted or play in a game. And that record will most likely stand, unless the NBA changes it's rules about skipping college for the NBA. He wears number 17 for the age in which he was drafted. During the summers, he attends Loyola Marymount University to earn a bachelor's in Business Management. Bynum has been in the NBA for 5 years, all with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Jordan Robert Farmar (aka Jordy, ears)
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via media.scout.com

Farmar was born in Los Angeles, to his father Damon Farmar (a former minor league baseball outfielder who was a second round draft pick in both 1982 and 1983), and mother, Melinda. His parents divorced when he was 2, and he went to live with his mother, who soon met and married her current husband (Farmar's stepfather), Israeli Yehuda Kolani from Tel Aviv. Farmar and his mother and stepfather are Jewish. As of 2009, Farmar is one of only two Jewish basketball players in the NBA (the other being Omri Casspi). Farmar starting playing basketball at age 4. Farmar's godfather is former major league baseball player Eric Davis.
Farmar attended Portola Middle School and Temple Judea in Tarzana and Birmingham High School in Van Nuys, before transferring his sophomore year to Taft High School in Woodland Hills. He was a teammate with New York Giants Wide Receiver Steve Smith. He later went on to play college ball at UCLA, where he led them to the 2006 national championship game (where they lost ot Florida). Farmar has been in the NBA for 4 yeas, all with the Lakers.

Derek Lamar Fisher (aka D-FIsh {not you Dex})
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via nballin.com


Fisher was born in Little Rock, Arkansas. The younger brother of former NBA player Duane Washington, Fisher attended the Parkview Arts and Science Magnet High School, where he was a Letterman in basketball. Fisher then went on to play basketball at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, where he is regarded as one of the greatest basketball players in the history of the university. He holds the schools record in points, assists and steals. He earned a degree in communications. In 2005, Fisher pledged $700,000 to UALR towards the construction of its auxiliary gym, since named in his honor, and the establishment of the Fisher Fellows Life Skills program, a mentoring program for UALR student-athletes.
Fish was selected 24th overall by the Lakers and spent his first 8 seasons with LA. He has been in the NBA for 14 seasons (11 with LA, 2 with Golden State and 1 with Utah). After the '04 season (where he lost his starting job to Gary Payton), he opted out of his contract and signed with Golden State. He was later traded to the Jazz, before returning to the promised land in '07. He has 4 championship rings with the Lakers. He will go down in Laker history for his .04 second shot.

Pau Gasol i Seaz (aka....... Pau..........)
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via www.ilovebasket.com

Pau Gasol was born in Barcelona, Spain. Gasol began playing basketball with his school team called Alvirne, and he eventually signed with Cornalia. When he was sixteen, he began playing for barcelona's junior team. He also won the 1998 FIBA Europe Under-18 Championship. Pau moved to the senior team in the 1998-99 season. In what would be his final season in Europe in 2001, Gasol led Barcelona to the Spanish national Cup championship game, where he was named MVP. After entering the NBA Draft, Gasol was selected third overall in the first round in the 2001 NBA Draft by the Hawks, who traded his draft rights to the Grizzlies in exchange for Shareef Abdur-Rahim.
Gasol won the NBA Rookie of The Year award that year. He currently holds the Memphis Grizzles franchise records for career games played, minutes played, field goals made and attempted, free throws made and attempted, offensive, defensive, and total rebounds, blocked shots, turnovers, and points (WOW). After seven seasons with the Grizzlies, Gasol was traded to the Lakers on February 1, 2008 (praise the Lord). Gasol has been in the NBA for 10 years (7 with Memphis and 3 with LA).

Adam John Morrison (aka Ammo)
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via a.espncdn.com

Ammo was born in Glendive, Montana. Morrison's father John was a basketball coach, and the family moved with his coaching career: Casper College in Wyoming, Dakota Wesleyen University in South Dakota, and Dawson Community College in Montana. When Morrison was in the fourth grade, his father left coaching and the family moved to Spokane, Washington. Adam became the Gonzaga men's team's ball boy. While he was in eigth grade, Ammo was diagnosed with type I diabetes, after losing 30 pounds. However, his illness did not keep him from becoming a star at Mead High School. In his senior year he led Mead to the finals of the state tournament. Despite playing in the final game with hypoglycemia so severe that he nearly suffered a seizure, he scored 37 points in a losing effort. It was Mead's only loss that season. Morrison was not heavily recruited out of high school.
He went to Gonzaga University and played 3 years there, as he entered the NBA draft after his junior year. He led Gonzaga to a sweet sixteen birth during his junior year, where he suffered a difficult lose to UCLA afer being up by 17 (see picture above). He was drafted 3rd overall and has played 4 years in the NBA (2 with Charlotte and 2 with LA).

Lamar Joseph Odom (aka LO, Candy Man)
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via thestartingfive.net

Odom was born in South Jamaica, Queens, New York. His father was a heroin addict and his mother died of colon cancer when he was twelve years old. He was raised by his grandmother Mildred. In his first three years of high school, Odom played for Christ The King Regional High School in Middle Village, New York. He transferred first to Redemption Christian Academy in Troy, New York for the basketball season and then to St. Thomas Aquinas High School in New Britain, Connecticut. During his youth, Odom was teamed with Elton Brand and Ron Artest on the same AAU (amateur athletic union) team.
In 1997, Odom attended UNLV and was enrolled in summer classes. Following an academic scandal, an NCAA inquiry found Odom received payments amounting to $5,600 from booster David Chapman. Coach Bill Bayno was fired and UNLV was placed on probation for four years. Odom then transferred to the university of Rhode Island, but had to sit out the 1997-98 season. Odom played one season at Rhode Island, where he led the Rams to the conference championship in 1999. His 3 pointer against Temple at the buzzer gave the Rams their first A-10 Tournament title. He declared for the NBA after his freshman year. Odom was selected fourth in the 1999 draft by the LA Clippers. He has been in the NBA for 11 seasons (4 with the Clippers, 1 with Miami and 6 with LA). Odom has had three children, however he lost one of them, Jayden, in 2006 when he died of SIDS, when he was only six and a half months old.

Joshua Powell (aka ???)
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via my.lakers.com

Josh was born in Charleston, South Carolina. He attended Riverdale High School in Georgia and went on to play college ball at North Carolina State. After his sophomore year, where he averaged 12.4 ppg and 5.2 rpg, he declared himself eligible for the NBA draft. However, he was not drafted and wound up going to play in Europe. He worked out for several teams the following year and eventually got signed by the Dallas Mavericks. He spent the next few years, after spending a year with the Mavs, playing over in Europe again. He later got back into the NBA with the mavs and has remained there ever since. He has spent 6 years in the NBA (1 with Dallas, 1 with Indiana, 1 with Golden State, 1 with the Clipper & 2 with LA).

Aleksander Sasha Vujacic (aka The Machine {rotfl})
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via www.vujacic.net

Sasha was born in Maribor, Slovenia. Sasha has two siblings, a sister named Nina and brother named Aljosa. His parents live in Rancho Palos Verdes in California, while he lives in Redondo Beach. In addition to basketball, he enjoys playing volleyball, soccer and tennis (but I'm almost positive he didnt enjoy tennis until recently {sharapova}). Sasha began his professional career at the age of 16, playing with Snaidero Udine of Italy. His father Vaso Vujacic is a Serbian basketball coach. Sasha was also a member of the Slovenian junior national team. He was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers with the 27th overall pick in the 2004 NBA Draft.
His shooting touch has began to diminish, considering he hit 60% of his 3 pointers in the 2006 playoffs. He has been in the NBA for 6 years, all with the LA Lakers.

Luke Theodore Walton (aka lllluuuukkkkeeee) 
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via www.complex.com

^^^^^^^^^ WHO IS LUKE WITH??? ^^^^^^^^ Anyways, Luke was born in San Diego and is the son of NBA great, Bill Walton. Walton was named after Bill's close friend and former Trail Blazer's teammate Maurice Lucas. Luke grew up around basketball and all of his brothers played it while growing up. Luke attended Shady Hill School in Massachusetts, while his father played for the Celtics. He later went on to the University of San Diego High School and the University of Arizona. Many NBA experts and enthusiasts view Walton as a smart player of the game who has a high basketball IQ and one who understands the game of basketball deeply.
Walton owns a restaurant, Joey's Smokin' BBQ, located in Manhattan Beach. On his right arm, there is a tattoo of four Grateful Dead-type dancing skeletons, each one with a basketball; the skeletons represent Luke and his three brothers. In December 2008, a woman pleaded no contest to charges of stalking Walton; she was arrested after she pulled up to Walton's car and pretended to fire gunshots at him with her hand. Luke has been in the NBA for 7 years, all with the LA Lakers.

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Hope you enjoyed all their stories. I enjoyed searching for old / weird / funny pictures of each person. I thought the stories behind DJ, Odom, Ammo and Farmar were somewhat interesting. Sorry if this reflects that I am bored at work. lol. I do appreciate the many more articles we are getting with our new writers though. Just had to kill some time!

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