LeBron James has gone through a lot in his now-15 NBA seasons. Of the many things that seems underrated about him as a player is just how well-adjusted he is now to the immense pressure and spotlight under which he plays. It’s been that way from the beginning, really, and even before he was an NBA rookie all eyes were on James to perform.
So LeBron can certainly relate to the fate that Lonzo Ball seems resigned to in Los Angeles. James spoke about Lonzo’s rookie year and the expectations he’s saddled with the for the Lakers, who Cleveland hosts on Thursday. It’s something James has unique insight on, and he said he can see a lot of himself as a rookie in
James spoke to the pressure of coming in as the “savior” of a franchise and the difficulties that come with those expectations with ESPN’s Dave McMenamin on Tuesday night after a home win against the Atlanta Hawks.
When asked if he specifically related to what Ball is going through, he was hesitant but talked about the high stakes that come with the expectations that a single player can change the fate of a franchise.
“So, can I draw any parallel to my experience? I mean, of course. I guess when you’re drafted to a franchise, they want you to kind of be the savior. And it takes a while. I mean, listen, man, this guy is 20-something games into his pro career. S— doesn’t happen [that fast]. Here it goes again, it goes back to my instant oatmeal [quote]: Everybody wants it right away. Can he play ball? Absolutely. The kid can play ball. Do guys want to play with him? Absolutely, because it’s a guy who is not about him. It’s about the success of the team. And he gives the ball up, and he passes the ball, and there’s energy behind the ball.”
That selfless play that Ball brings is something James envies, and he said it’s helped him get through the media storm that’s resulted in his drafting by the Lakers. James tries hard not to specifically mention Lonzo’s father, LaVar, but he’s certainly a part of that storm. But James said staying out of it and always deferring to those around him has changed the way players think about Lonzo on the court.
“The kid hasn’t said anything,” James said. “It’s been everybody else. So, I love his humility. He goes out, every time someone asks him a question, he says, ‘This is not about me, man. I just want to win. I don’t care about what I did.’ I seen he had a triple-double one game and they lost. He was like, ‘I don’t care. We lost.'”
Though James said he’s not speifically in Lonzo’s Big Baller Brand shoes, he did say there’s a special expectation with a signature franchise like the Lakers, a pressure that’s evident even from the outside.
“I don’t know what he’s personally going through. I can’t comment on anyone’s situation because I’m not a part of it,” James said. “From the outside looking in, yeah, there’s a lot around him. I mean, he’s the No. 2 pick. He’s drafted to a team that’s not been very good the last few years — who’s built off winning championships. That’s what the Lakers are about. That’s what the Patriots are about. That’s what the San Antonio Spurs are about, the Red Sox and the Yankees. So, when you become a part of that, you become a part of a franchise that’s accustomed to winning.”
It’s always great to see players open up and talk about each other honestly, and it really does seem like LeBron has been impressed with Lonzo’s composure through his rookie season. The results on the floor may be a bit inconsistent thus far, but James is right about one thing: Lonzo has yet to cause a scene with anything other than his play. While the noise around him continues to be louder than ever, he’s not trying to shout above it.