For as much as Los Angeles Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka are working to improve the team and franchise’s standing on the court, they’re focused on developing the players as men off of it as well.
As such, the Lakers have opened their doors to several successful and high-profile people such as, film studio executive Jeffrey Katzenberg, rapper Kendrick Lamar and SpaceX founder Elon Musk. The latest to join the group were decorated Olympian Allyson Felix and actor Dwayne Johnson, still affectionally known by many as ‘The Rock.’
“He was great,” Lakers head coach Luke Walton said of the former wrestling star. “He really was. It was the first time I met him. Great messaging as far as what he’s done in his career. Learning from his disappointments, learning from his life experience and how he approaches different situations.
“I think it was really good for our guys to be able to hear that message, be able to ask him questions and relate to what he’s been through, and hopefully use that not only in their career but their life moving forward.”
Walton was equally as praising of Felix, calling her visit “awesome.” It also came with a friendly challenge issued. “Some guys wanted to challenge her to a race, so we’ll set something up in the offseason or preseason,” Walton said.
While he’s developed a reputation as a players’ coach, Walton made it clear he would side with Felix against his entire roster. “I want to set it up just for my own personal amusement,” he quipped.
Walton declined to name who wanted to test their speed against Felix, but Kuzma was more than willing to reveal it was Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. “She was wearing jeans and untied Jordans and could probably still beat him in a race,” Kuzma said.
How motivated the Lakers may have been by the recent guest speakers can’t necessarily be measured, but Walton felt Johnson’s presence may have been a factor for Kuzma pushing through a sprained right ankle.
“Maybe it was The Rock that motivated him to fight through that injury,” Walton joked. “Kuzma is a big wrestling fan, so maybe he used his inner DJ to play through that pain.”