A Chino Hills, Calif., native, product of UCLA, and a pass-first point guard, Lonzo Ball was seemingly destined to be drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers. But for all the parallels drawn to franchise icon Magic Johnson, Ball favored LeBron James over another Lakers legend in Kobe Bryant.
The rookie has referred to James as his favorite player and the best player on several occasions. Normally, it would be blasphemous for someone with ties to the Lakers to champion James over Bryant, considering the semi-fabricated rivalry between the two.
Though, that’s not to say the 20-year-old didn’t view Bryant in a similar light. “Kobe was up there with [James],” Ball said.
“I felt like my game was more like LeBron’s than Kobe’s, so that’s why I gravitated towards [James’] game more, but Kobe is one of the best to ever do it. I’m glad he’s getting both jerseys retired.”
Like others on the Lakers roster have shared, Ball drew inspiration from Bryant’s work ethic and mindset. “Just watching Kobe, I loved his mentality,” he said. “Not scared of anybody and always wants to win, very competitive. I think that’s the biggest thing to take away from his game.”
In watching Bryant’s playing career he also saw a Shaquille O’Neal in his prime who helped the lead the franchise to three consecutive NBA titles. O’Neal has long maintained he and Bryant were the best one-two punch. Ball would not be one to argue against that.
“I watched all Kobe and Shaq, that was my favorite duo when I was little,” he said. “It was the best shooting guard with the best center, so it was tough to deal with. I definitely watched [Kobe] all the time.”
Next for Ball may be a meeting with Bryant, which Ball said has not yet been scheduled but is one he’s hopeful to have.
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