El Segundo — Lonzo Ball returning to the court and practicing with contact for the first time during training camp was the big news to come out after the Los Angeles Lakers finished practicing on Thursday, but making almost as big of waves were comments Ball made about his new teammate LeBron James.
Ball famously grew up idolizing James, and Thursday was his first time getting onto the court for full-contact drills with his favorite from childhood. So naturally, Ball was asked if he had any nerves when sharing the floor with James for the first time.
Because he’s a confident professional athlete who didn’t get to where he is by being nervous on the basketball court, he said he wasn’t.
“Nah, I’m never nervous to play with nobody. He’s just another person at the end of the day. He not God,” Ball said.
That’s a great quote, and here is where I’ll break with AP Style and say that because of how good it was, I chose to tweet it.
he actually said "He not God," not that I'm sure that makes a difference.— TV's Harrison Faigen (@hmfaigen) September 27, 2018
Once I did that, people on social media got upset about two things: 1) The question and 2) That Lonzo said that LeBron wasn’t God.
I’ll address the first one first. People are on #LakersMediaQuestionWatch or whatever because of things like LeBron getting asked how he can earn the respect of Lakers fans (a legitimately terrible question).
The thing is this though, sometimes you might know the answer to a question, or at least think you know, but if it doesn’t get asked the player can’t actually give the answer.
Put differently, sometimes you have to ask a basic question so that the player or subject can say something in their voice, because the media can’t just assume (even if the answer seems obvious).
As written above, Ball grew up idolizing James. If he wasn’t asked what it was like to step on the floor for the first time with him, the press corps wouldn’t have been doing it’s job.
And as for the people upset at the “he not God” part of the quote, Lonzo seemed to be trying to convey that he wasn’t nervous to play with anyone, and that he knows James is just another human being and not a deity. What he decidedly did not appear to be doing was disparaging LeBron’s basketball ability in any way, because, well, LeBron is kind of a basketball god.
Could the question have been phrased differently? Sure. Could Lonzo have answered in a different way? Absolutely. But ultimately this wasn’t some mistake by either the media or Ball. Instead of getting mad about it, I figured it would be easier to try and explain why it may have happened, and also offer a reminder that this is all supposed be fun.
Seriously, if it’s the preseason and we can’t have a little fun picturing all the jokes and memes we’re going to get out of “he not God” this year, what are we even doing here?
You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.