Los Angeles Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball has been under the type of spotlight few NBA rookies ever face. All of his exploits have been covered tirelessly by reporters and even news of his haircuts led to push notifications on some mobile apps.
Some of that attention would have been on Ball no matter what, because he’s a prominent rookie being lauded by the high-profile Lakers as their next franchise leader. But some of it is also because of the constant antics of his outspoken father, LaVar Ball.
Whatever the reason for the attention, it’s seemed very clear that few, if any rookies, have ever dealt with as much publicity and as high of expectations in their first season.
Well, clear to everyone except Spurs point guard Tony Parker, who told Tom Orsborn of MYSanAntonio.com before the Lakers beat the Spurs that he believes he had it harder than Ball did because he was entering a much more talented and established team:
“When I came in, we were trying to win a championship,” he said. “And that’s a lot of pressure on an everyday basis to be consistent and to perform.”
Parker also said it wasn’t easy trying to live up to the high standards set by “Five-oh (David Robinson) and Timmy (Duncan).”
“Rookies in L.A. and New York, yeah, there is pressure to be a good player,” Parker said. “But championship pressure, I think, is more.”
In some ways Parker did have it harder than Ball. His leash was probably shorter as a rookie because of how high the Spurs’ internal expectations were, and he was having to disprove stereotypes about European players that were still much more prevalent during his rookie season.
However, Parker also had it easier because of the sheer amount of people who cared at all about him as a rookie. Part of that was due to social media being much less ubiquitous when Parker was in his first season, but also because Lakers fans far outnumber Spurs fans.
Did Parker have more pressure to deal with internally just because of how much more his mistakes would harm a contender than Ball’s harm a lottery team? Certainly, but he also got to try and live up to those expectations while getting a fraction of the coverage and external pressure Ball receives. So in some ways, Parker is right but in others he’s wrong.
Which scenario is harder to deal with is in the eye of the beholder, but it would seem that between the internal and external pressure Ball gets from his bosses, his father and die-hard fans, he is dealing with a bit more pressure than a young Parker ever did.