Perhaps, in retrospect, it should have been more obvious that LeBron James would gravitate to Rui Hachimura. That when he said of Hachimura’s acquisition that it “feels good to have another 6-8 wing,” he wasn’t just taking a subtle dig at the Lakers’ 2021-2023 roster construction (which he definitely was) but also a sign that he had a true appreciation for Hachimura’s game.
That admiration only grew more obvious in the playoffs, with James setting up and empowering Hachimura as a secondary scorer en route to his three-year, $51 million contract this summer, and has apparently gotten even stronger over the offseason.
Last week, Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka revealed that James has been calling Hachimura “his understudy” because of how much he’s shadowing and training with him over the summer, and when Hachimura made his gratitude for that mentorship known on the website formerly known as Twitter, James made it clear that he might also have a different nickname for his latest mentee:
That gif, a scene from the 1984 film “The Karate Kid,” in which Mr. Miyagi teaches his student Daniel how painting a fence is basically martial arts, was actually indicative of a moniker James has been working on for Rui that he revealed to reporters at Media Day:
LeBron on Rui: “We’ve worked out together pretty much all summer … I see a lot in him. … I call him my Daniel-san and I’m Mr. Miyagi”— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) October 2, 2023
I just hope that this doesn’t mean that when the Lakers say LeBron has been training with Rui, he has actually just been making him mow his lawn (“it’s just like transition defense!”) or drive his kids to school (“if you can’t drive to school, you can’t drive to the basket!”).
Unless it works, of course. Then it was a great job by LeSensei.
Either way, hopefully this does mean that LeBron has gained the ability to quickly rub his hands together and miraculously heal any injury. That could go a long way towards Anthony Davis playing all 82 games this season, that’s for sure.
You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.