EL SEGUNDO – The first son born into a basketball family, Lonzo Ball was bred for stardom. What he knew about Magic Johnson, a superstar who last played in the NBA a year before he was born, came from the stories his father, LaVar, told and what he could glean from the grainy footage of games that replayed on cable television.
“It was a pleasure to watch,” Lonzo said Thursday. “(I could) learn a lot from him.”
So is it any surprise that when the roles were flipped this spring, and it was Johnson studying footage of Ball, that what the old Lakers great saw looked familiar?
“Watching so much tape of him,” Johnson said, “you see yourself.”
You do if you’re Magic.
The Lakers have drafted 90 players in the 38 years since Johnson arrived in Los Angeles. Never had any of them arrived with the fanfare and pressure that preceded Johnson’s introduction by Dr. Jerry Buss and Jerry West at the Forum on a June day in 1979.
Then on Thursday, Johnson welcomed Lonzo Ball.
Before he handed Ball his No. 2 jersey on Thursday in front of local and national media at the Lakers practice facility, Johnson faced his new protégé and warned that he was about to put some pressure on him. “You look to your right, there’s some jerseys hanging on that wall.”
Ball looked up. Baylor, Goodrich, Abdul-Jabbar, O’Neal, Worthy, West. Johnson.
“We expect a Ball jersey hanging up there, all right?” Johnson said.
LaVar Ball nodded enthusiastically from his front row seat, while the soft-spoken Lonzo mumbled an agreement.
So much for the notion that the Lakers would try to minimize the pressure the garrulous LaVar Ball has heaped on his son. They will amplify it. In a single breath, Johnson anointed Ball “the new face of the Lakers” and “the guy who will lead us back to where we want to get to.”
Johnson and General Manager Rob Pelinka are staking their credibility as NBA executives to Ball.
This is how Johnson welcomed Ball because this is also how the…