The trend of Southern California producing NBA players is not a new one as the league is littered with Los Angeles natives. Those same players growing up as Lakers fans isn’t a groundbreaking development either.
But it’s not often that a hometown LA native returns to the Lakers and it’s even rarer when they make an impact on the team. Russell Westbrook is the obvious example this season, but no one had a more rapid ascension in terms of becoming a fan favorite as Stanley Johnson this season.
Less than a month ago, Johnson had departed the South Bay Lakers to sign as a replacement player with the Bulls. His own stint in health and safety protocols meant he never made an appearance with the Bulls but it did allow him to return home and play for the team he rooted for as a kid in the Lakers.
In a feature on new fan-favorite Johnson, Jovan Buha of The Athletic talked to Johnson about his childhood Lakers fandom.
While growing up in Fullerton, Calif., Stanley Johnson only had a few channels on his TV. The limited programming included Lakers games, causing the hoops-obsessed prodigy from Southern California to develop an affinity with the purple and gold.
“When I would think about playing basketball in the NBA, I’d always view myself in a Laker jersey,” Johnson told The Athletic on Thursday.
As if Johnson wasn’t enough of a fan favorite, his Lakers fandom only serves to increase his Q-Rating within the fanbase. Any player who grew up as a fan of the franchise already has a certain amount of goodwill given to them.
However, Johnson has done more than enough on the court to draw praise. From the moment he put on the jersey on Christmas Day, he’s been a positive contributor to the Lakers in a variety of roles.
Johnson also talked to Buha about the moment of donning the purple and gold for the first time.
“It’s kind of like one of those moments now where you’ve kind of dreamed about it since you were 5 and to be able to put (a Lakers jersey) on is cool,” Johnson said.
The good news for Johnson is that he appears set to be a Laker for longer than his initial 10-day contract. His positive impact paired with the team opening up a roster spot by trading Rajon Rondo spells good things for Johnson’s long-term possibilities with the Lakers.
It’s rare that a fan of a team lands with that very team and becomes a contributor with them. But it’s a testament to Johnson’s hard work and a little bit of good fortune of being in the right spot at the right time that could spell a fruitful partnership between the two.