There are probably a lot of reasons that Quinn Cook joined the Los Angeles Lakers in free agency this summer. The NBA is a business, and team allegiances from before entering the league usually erode for players once they begin seeing such organizations as employers rather than entities to root for.
But for Cook, such nostalgia is still alive, and it’s because his Laker ties run deep.
Cook’s father was a Laker fan, since the Showtime days of Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, which meant that which team Cook would root for as a child was predetermined.
“When I was born that’s really all I knew, and obviously when I grew up and started to really watch and understand basketball, that’s when the Lakers were winning, so it was a great time to be a fan,” Cook said. “I was all the way in D.C., but I was obsessed with the Lakers, and that’s something my dad really instilled in me.”
Cook and his father’s shared love of the Lakers lived on in Cook after his father passed away on the operating table during a colon procedure that went tragically wrong. It’s an event that obviously left an indelible impact on the then-14-year-old, who still ends every single one of his posts on Instagram with a message to his dad to rest in peace.
His latest post was no different, but it was hard not to see this one as a slightly more emotional tribute to the man who used to only let Cook stay up past midnight to watch Lakers games.
Now, Cook is following through on the dream of donning the jersey his father was obsessed with cheering for.
Cook’s free agency wasn’t easy. He was planning to sign his qualifying offer with the Warriors in order to have job security next season, followed by the Warriors pulling it, leaving Cook briefly concerned that he wouldn’t be able to find a next spot.
Then his longtime mentor LeBron James stepped in and put in a call to Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka: He wanted Cook on his team.
Pelinka quickly signed the 26-year-old sharpshooter to a two-year, $6 million deal in what had to be a surreal moment for a kid who grew up a Lakers fan. Here was the team’s biggest star and maybe the best player ever telling his GM that he wanted Cook by his side.
“He believes in me and that he wanted me to be a part of this team. That meant a lot,” Cook said.
In part because of James’ call — but more largely because of his hard work to get to this point, fighting through years in the G League, 10-day contracts and an uncertain NBA future at various points — Cook is coming full circle.
“I had a fun childhood rooting for the Lakers,” Cook said.
Now he gets to join them.
All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.