We’re witnessing history.
You see it every time he steps on the court.
You read about him on the internet.
You hear about him walking around the streets of Los Angeles.
There have been rumblings of a new breed of big man in LA. A hybrid of each Gasol brother, a new Croatian Sensation.
His name is Ivica Zubac, and he’s here to wreak havoc on your favorite basketball team.
Let’s travel back.
The stars were aligned when NBA Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum announced him as the newest Laker. You see, Zubac had been a lifelong Lakers fan. In the past, the 19-year old toted an Andrew Bynum jersey, now he was set to bear his own name on the back of a Lakers jersey.
Zubac hit the ground running. He came to the United States immediately for his first NBA season. From there, he dined at In-N-Out, took snapchats of his girlfriend wearing his jersey, and even named Kobe Bryant as his favorite player.
Fast forward to the Las Vegas Summer League, where Zublocka came to life. After playing in games, it was a sure bet that Zubac would be found at In-N-Out and playing FIFA with his teammates. He was like the NBA’s Ric Flair. After a small (albeit impressive) run in Vegas, Zubac was ready for real basketball.
Zubac started a game early on in the regular season, but after a short amount of playing time, he decided the world was not ready for his talents, thus putting himself in foul trouble.
From there, he would go back and forth from the Lakers to the D-Fenders, where he’d fine tune his game and wait for people to prepare for the ensuing greatness; all while propelling the Lakers’ D-League affiliate to multiple victories.
On January 17th, 2017, everything changed.
Against the Denver Nuggets, Zubac got the most playing time he’s earned all season. He burst back onto the scene with his first career double-double. In a display of post moves we haven’t seen since the Laker who wore number 33, Zubac recaptured the attention of NBA fans everywhere.
The prophecy was coming true.
Dwight, Hibbert, Sacre, Kelly, Mozgov. All misses. But after multiple failed attempts to bring the next great big man to Los Angeles, the Lakers had finally struck gold.
Teammate Larry Nance, Jr. was eager to attach himself to the Croatian, calling Zubac his little brother.
Great game tonight for my little brother Zu Alcindor @ivicazubac 🇭🇷💪🏽🇭🇷💪🏽🇭🇷
— Larry Nance Jr (@Larrydn22) January 18, 2017
Nance would not stop there with the nicknames.
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) January 19, 2017
Zubac would go on to drop two more double-doubles in the next five games. His teammates were taking notice and one, in particular, was singing his praises.
Zuuu 👀 kid is good!
— D’Angelo Russell (@Dloading) January 27, 2017
He had earned the attention of then-injured teammate D’Angelo Russell. As the team’s 2015 second-overall pick worked to get back, he also took more time to once again bring attention to the team’s newest attraction.
— D’Angelo Russell (@Dloading) January 29, 2017
Zubac and Russell were scheming. It was easy to tell. They knew what they could be, they knew what the fans wanted. Zubac had shown proficient screening ability, which Russell noticed. Zubac wanted the world to know what was coming.
— Ivica Zubac (@ivicazubac) January 29, 2017
January 31st, 2017. The perfect storm was brewing. The Lakers up against the Denver Nuggets once more, the same team that Zubac had his coming out party against. Zubac was also coming off of a career-high 16 points in the previous game. Russell was set to make his return from a knee and calf injury.
In a highly contested game, Zubac and Russell provided the Lakers with an electric performance to seal a victory. Zubac hit a new career high in points with 17 and Russell notched his first double-double with assists, with 22 points and 10 dimes. With Russell back on the court, he and Zubac can grow together and work off of their breakout game as a tandem. Going back to the pick and roll conversation, that is specifically where the two players thrived.
They scored on 6 of them. 15 pts on 7 possessions (2.14 PPP)
We want more
— Laker Film Room (@LakerFilmRoom) February 1, 2017
We’re witnessing the beginning of something beautiful. Having now solidified spot in the rotation, Zubac should see the floor more throughout the remainder of the season. With more playing time comes more opportunity to showcase his abilities and further the ever-growing legend that is Ivica Zubac.
The jokes have become truths. Zubac has turned the basketball world on its head. This is only the start. With 31 games left in the season and the Lakers falling further away from the playoff race, Zubac has limited time to save this season.