Much has been made of the chemistry, or lack thereof, on the Lakers roster last year. The team had to deal with an influx of several new players, coaching instability, and trade rumors, all leading to a less-than-ideal locker room atmosphere.
An underrated factor in the disconnect between some of the players might simply have been a generation gap. LeBron James is 34 years old, while Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball, his teammates in the Los Angeles starting lineup, are each 21.
For Ball, it wasn’t so much the age gap that made it difficult to relate to James — it was also the fact that he grew up idolizing LeBron. After a lifetime of seeing LeBron as one of his heroes, making the switch to interacting with the all-time great as a teammate was challenging.
While he was on HBO’s “The Shop,” Lonzo (kind of hilariously) explained how it felt to be on the same team as LeBron:
“It was crazy for me, because I didn’t know what to say to him the first time, because it was like, for me I had been watching him my whole life, and owned his jerseys and everything. So when I seen him, I think I just was like ‘yo what’s up?’ (the whole room laughs). But I didn’t know like whether to ask him questions, and I just kind of felt it out.
“I honestly didn’t really get comfortable with you until like after All-Star, I was kind of like ‘I don’t know how to be around him’ because I had never really been around somebody that I looked up to like that. Then I see him in the locker room and it’s like, it was crazy.”
It’s easy to understand why Ball had such a particular fascination with James, considering the way both of them play. So many young Lakers fans grew up admiring Kobe Bryant, but Ball is a more limited scorer who instead has an all-around game.
When Ball was asked why he looked up to LeBron growing up, he revealed that his own game trending more towards James’ than Bryant’s because they had more shared similarities:
”I mean, that was the first part just because obviously I love the game and he was my favorite player... Like my generation I think you got LeBron, or you got Kobe. And the way i played my whole life was more towards him. I wanted to get triple-doubles, I want to help the team win all categories, I don’t want to just score the ball. So I think that’s what gravitated me to him.”
Lucky for Lonzo, he gets a chance to play alongside his favorite player and learn from LeBron during the formative stage of his career. And given that Ball got the invite to appear on “The Shop”, it appears that he finally figured out how to have real conversation with LeBron, which bodes well for their relationship going forward.
Ball says he didn’t get comfortable talking to James until after they had already played their last game together in 2018-19. Now that they’re starting on the same page next season, it should be fun to watch how their pairing evolves both on and off the court.