On certain days this summer, this blog might have seemed like a Lonzo Ball-centric site rather than one centered on the Los Angeles Lakers. It would appear Silver Screen and Roll wasn’t alone, as Chris Herring of FiveThirtyEight outlined in his latest piece, focused on impact Ball has made on the media.
According to Herring, not only did Ball have the most “mainstream, published news stories” written about him of any rookie with 702, but he also had more than the other two top-three picks in the 2017 NBA Draft combined, with Markelle Fultz (436) and Jayson Tatum (211) both generating substantially less interest. Additionally, a brief look at Twitter will reveal Ball has more followers there (358K) than Fultz (137K) and Tatum (108K) combined as well.
And before you ask, yes, Ball was the most popular even without factoring in headlines generated by his father, LaVar. As Herring puts it, “even when you parse out the stories that are more focused on LaVar, Lonzo still stands alone as the NBA rookie who’s been written about most frequently these past five years, with 563 mentions in the media.”
What does this all mean? Sure, part of Ball’s popularity probably comes from being in Los Angeles, the second-largest media market in the country. But that also isn’t a reason to dismiss his popularity, especially when so many in the national media have tried to sell the narrative that playing in big markets doesn’t matter anymore.
That’s probably accurate for upper-echelon, super-duper stars like LeBron James and Kevin Durant, who fans will follow anywhere. But for a guy like Paul George? It seems like a fairly safe bet that if an exciting rookie who hasn’t even played a real NBA game can own the summer like this that George’s own q-rating would substantially rise by putting on purple and gold.
Maybe that matters to George, and maybe it doesn’t. As the Lakers begin to look like a more attractive place to play on the court, however, these are the type of off-court benefits they can sell to players to put their pitch over the top. It may not have worked when the team was horrible and centered around a slowly decomposing Kobe Bryant, but it just might when they look like an awesome place to get fed by Ball for easy buckets in transition.