The Los Angeles Lakers have their fair share of celebrity fans. The storied franchise always draws a crowd with famous fans sprinkled in at the Staples Center from arguably the most well-known Lakers fan in Jack Nicholson to fellow oscar winners Denzel Washington, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Dustin Hoffman.
Many other actors are frequently seen at Staples, such as, Andy Garcia of HBO’s Ballers, Will Ferrell a.k.a Ron Burgundy, Jack Black and musicians Adam Levine, Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg, and of course, Flea and Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Along with an incredibly long list of actors and musicians, the Lakers also have plenty of other professional athletes that are diehard fans of the purple and gold. One of those fans is two-time NFL Pro Bowler and Los Angeles native, Donald Penn of the Oakland Raiders.
Penn joins the likes of other prominent athletes like soccer superstar David Beckham, 23-time gold medal winner Michael Phelps, and Raiders teammate Derek Carr as fans of the Lakers
The Raiders’ veteran left tackle took some time out of his schedule to speak with Lakers Nation about his love for the franchise, what he believes the team should do moving forward, the upcoming Raiders season as well as a free football/cheer camp for kids that he’ll be hosting in June.
Ryan Ward: Have you always been a Lakers fan?
Donald Penn: “Yeah, I grew up a Lakers fan. Die hard Lakers fan. Grew up in Inglewood, California. I remember going to the Forum with my dad all the time. Stood up in the back in the nosebleeds against the back wall, but I loved every minute of it. Magic [Johnson] is one of my favorite players.”
Did you grow up wanting to pursue a career in the NBA or was it NFL all the way?
DP: “I thought I was going to the NBA my whole life, until about junior year of high school … still playing basketball in high school. I went All-State in high school in basketball and football, but I put more focus on football then because I already had schools starting to look at me and there wasn’t too many schools looking at in basketball. I had to make a decision. It worked out great for me, but one reason why I’m a good football player is because of my basketball background. I didn’t start playing football until my sophomore year in high school.”
What do you think about the recent regime change for the Lakers? Will Magic Johnson get this franchise back on track?
DP: “Like I said, I’m a big Magic Johnson fan. He is the right man. I love the young group of players that we’ve got, but I really do have faith in Magic. I’m glad they made the move … Magic has played the game. He knows the business.”
If the Lakers keep their lottery pick next week, who do you think is the ideal player for them to take in the NBA Draft?
DP: “They’ve got some nice guards. I like [Lonzo] Ball. I do like him. I would love to trade and try to get DeMarcus Cousins. That would be a great pickup.”
Would you rather the Lakers get Cousins instead of Paul George?
DP: “We could have Paul George and Cousins. I would like Paul George, too.
“I would like Cousins more because we need a big man. I like the young guy we got from the draft pick [Ivica Zubac] from last year. I like him. But I’d take Cousins at the four spot, two nice guards, I love [Jordan] Clarkson, I like D’Angelo [Russell].
“But I wouldn’t turn down Paul George, ever!”
Are there any other Lakers fans among your Raiders teammates? Derek Carr seems to be a big fan of Kobe Bryant.
DP: “Derek Carr is a big-time Laker fan. Gabe Jackson is a Laker fan … we’re always talking about them.”
“We always talk about them, especially me and DC. We talk about them all the time.”
Do you see Kobe Bryant’s “Mamba Mentality” in Derek Carr in the huddle or in the locker room?
DP: “The thing about Derek Carr is he has the Kobe mentality. He loves to work. He loves what he does. He’s a leader. He loves Kobe. I told him I’m a bigger Kobe fan than him. We argue about that all the time, but he loves Kobe. He works like him. He has that determination. He has that grit.
“He thinks he can make every throw. He does make every throw and he’s a perfectionist. That’s why we’re good. If you’ve ever noticed, when Derek Carr makes a big play he does the Kobe fist-pump every time.”
Tell us about your upcoming annual football and cheer camp and where and when it’ll be held.
DP: “It’s an annual camp. It’s free for all kids. I’m about to start posting all the information. It will probably be up next week. It’s June 3. It is going to be at El Camino College this year. Kids can come out and have a good time. I enjoy giving back. I give them a free meal. I give them coaching from actual NFL athletes. A lot of them are my friends throughout the league and teammates come in town and help coach. We do drills. The best part of it is doing a little competition at the end. Some seven-on-seven drills for the older kids. We do a little relay race. It’s fun. We’re going to have a good time.
“My wife, she started cheer camp that she has been doing the last two years. It’s been a great success, so we’re doing something that is incorporating the girls, too.”
Admirable to have a free camp for kids. What motivated you to go that route?
DP: “Growing up, there was nothing like that. My mom worked her butt off. My dad worked his butt off. There was no money for camps like that, so I just try to give back. Always felt if I was ever in the position to give back that I was going to make it free for kids. All my camps have been free and I’m going to continue that.”
Oakland Raiders will eventually become the Las Vegas Raiders. How do you feel about the move?
DP: “I was a little hurt. I grew up a Raider fan. I grew up when they were the L.A. Raiders. I was hurt when they left L.A. to go to Oakland. I’ve been pounding with the Raiders all my life, except the eight years I was in Tampa. Now we have to leave. It’s just sad because we have a great fan base out here. I wish we could’ve got something done out here. I know our owner Mr. Davis is doing the best thing for our team because he loves our team. He loves our fans. He loves the Raiders. From what I’m hearing he tried to do everything he could to keep us in Oakland.
“It’s going to be a sad thing, but that’s why we’re going to try to do everything possible to bring a championship to Oakland before we leave.”
Here are a few rapid-fire questions:
Greatest Laker ever?
DP: “Kobe Bryant and Magic Johnson. Tie.”
Favorite Lakers moment?
DP: “When Robert Horry hit that three against Sacramento in the playoffs. When Kobe threw that lob to Shaq.”
Will the Lakers make the playoffs next season?
DP: “Depends on how the offseason goes, but I hope so. It depends on if we make any moves this year and the growth of our young guys.”
Favorite Laker on the current squad?
DP: “I like Jordan Clarkson. That’s my boy, man. I like D’Angelo’s game.”
Best quarterback in the NFL?
DP: “Derek Carr.”
Will the Raiders win a Super Bowl next season?
Toughest player you’ve ever faced in the NFL?
DP: “It’s hard to sum it up to one. John Abraham. DeMarcus Ware. Von Miller. Dwight Freeney.”
DP: “Gabe Jackson.”