LeBron James praises Lonzo Ball’s “humility,” compares rookie year to his own

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Cleveland Cavaliers
Dec 12, 2017; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) throws a pass in the fourth quarter against the Atlanta Hawks at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers have put a lot of faith in being able to sign two star free agents in the summer of 2018. One of those stars, the Lakers hope, will be LeBron James, the Cavs’ star and consensus best player in the world.

LeBron to the Lakers has been a story for years now and the organization has not been able to court him the previous times where he was a legitimate free agent looking for a new home. All signs currently point to another divorce between James and the Cavs and questions still remain about whether the team can take advantage.

One positive sign for LA has been James’ admiration of their rookie point guard Lonzo Ball. James made time to watch the UCLA product at Summer League, wished him a happy birthday over Twitter, and now is drawing parallels between his rookie year and that of James himself in 2003.

James spoke to Dave McMenamin of ESPN, praising Lonzo’s humility among other things ahead of their face off on Thursday:

“The kid hasn’t said anything,” James told ESPN when asked about the hype surrounding Ball. “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.’

“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.”

That’s all well and good but it’s stuff that a lot of (smart) people have said about Lonzo. It is really cool to hear LeBron compare it to his own rookie year even though they were vastly different players with vastly different levels of success.

The most interesting part of LeBron’s quote came after that, however:

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.

Yes, before everyone calls us out for Lakers exceptionalism, this does not actually mean LeBron James is coming to play with Lonzo. But it’s at least a tick in one checkbox as the Lakers hope to make a pitch that James can’t refuse.

LeBron would have to take a huge risk to join a young Lakers team that could at most add one more max contract without moving Ball and Brandon Ingram in a trade for another. This is at least a glimmer of hope that he would be willing to do that.

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