Lucky Number 27

 

The Lakers aren’t historically known for building through the draft, as they’d usually reload rather than rebuild. But consecutive years among the west’s bottom dwelling teams plus a few years pushing the odds in the lottery forces you to adapt. And as blessed as they are with consecutive top 2 picks, the Lakers have drafted exceptionally well in the later stages of the draft, a refreshing new focus in regards to valuing picks, whether it’s a lottery pick or a 2nd rounder. As good as the scouting department is, luck has played just as much a role, and maybe even more.

Since 1989, the Lakers selected at #27 a total of 5 times, making it the most frequent position the Lakers have selected in during the modern NBA draft process. And over the years, 27 has proven to be a lucky number, as each pick turned out to have a pivotal role for the franchise.

1990: Elden Campbell

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Ushering in the post Showtime era, the Lakers of the early 90s, much like the present, consisted of a core young, talented players. The trio of Nick Van Exel, Eddie Jones and Campbell brought joy and entertainment to a fanbase that was otherwise, mourning the premature retirement of Laker legend Magic Johnson. And as the 27th pick, Campbell brought great value as the team’s starting Power Forward for 7 of the 9 seasons he spent in Los Angeles. Standing at 6″11 with a strong mid range game as well as skills in the post, he was the classic, prototypical NBA 4 that fit in well with the team. Before being ultimately traded to the Charlotte Hornets to make room for Robert Horry, he helped the team reach the playoffs every year, with the lone exception being the 93-94 season. Though his LA teams never won a ring, and was more commonly remembered as a transition era to Kobe-Shaq Lakers Dynasty, he would eventually win a ring at the expense of Kobe and Shaq’s Lakers in 2004 with the Detroit Pistons.

Though he may not be at the same caliber as most of the Lakers’ storied big men, Campbell still came in and averaged 10.4 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.7 blocks all in 25 minutes per game in his 9 years in LA, putting on great performances like the one against Patrick Ewing’s New York Knicks in a double overtime game during the 96-97 season. Ewing put up 35 points and 25 rebounds while Campbell put 40 and 10 of his own.

2002: Kareem Rush

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During the 2002 NBA Draft, the Lakers selected Chris Jefferies with the 27th overall pick and whose draft rights was later traded for the draft rights of Kareem Rush. After concluding 3 years of consistent improvement via college basketball in Missouri, 3 years where he averaged 18.9 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.1 assists on 44% shooting from the field and 42% from distance at 30 minutes a night, Jefferies ended up having a relatively short NBA career. While he didn’t score in the pros the way he did in college, Jefferies still had a memorable moment on the court as a member of the Lakers. Thanks to his three point shooting, he was able to earn a good 14 minutes a game during the Lakers playoff run in 2004, and while they would eventually lose to the Pistons in the Finals, Jefferies put on a pivotal performance just a round prior.

In the series clinching sixth game against Kevin Garnett’s Minnesota Timberwolves, Jefferies torched the opposition with six threes, hitting a couple of long distance shots during a tight contest late in the fourth quarter. He finished the night with 18 points, on 6/7 shooting, playing his role in putting the Lakers atop the rest of the west, and having an opportunity, once again, to play for the Larry O’Brien trophy.

2004: Sasha Vujacic

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In June of 2004, the Lakers walked away from draft night selecting sharpshooter Sasha Vujacic who played in the Italian basketball league the year prior. Truth be told, they knew what they were going to get with Vujacic: an three point marksman who can knockdown open shots. What they didn’t anticipate was they were also drafting the man who famously calls himself, “The Machine”.

While he never got to play huge minutes for the Lakers (a career 14.3 minutes per game in his 7 seasons with LA), Vujacic endeared himself to the fans, with his hard-nosed and scrappy type of play. He was never a great defender, but he works hard out on the court and would consistently irritate the opposing match-up and was highly successful at it. Just don’t think you could do the same to “The Machine” and walk away unscathed.

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I believe it’s also worth noting that playing for the a franchise like the purple and gold elevated his own personal brand. He was with the team in the early 2000s, standing in the corner as he watched Kobe take triple and quadruple teams on a nightly basis, biding his time and ultimately showing everyone on a national level who Sasha Vujacic was as the Lakers rose back to prominence later on. After barely even playing in the 2010 playoffs at all, he was subbed in for Game 7 of the NBA Finals against the hated rival Boston Celtics to ice the game, calmly sinking in two picture perfect free throws. At that moment, he epitomized what a role player is: a player that not only comes in to fulfill a specific task, bu also comes in prepared to maximize the opportunity given to him, all in the name of the team.

2015: Larry Nance Jr.

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A more recent 27th pick, Larry Nance Jr. has already made a name for himself in his two seasons in the league. Son of former Slam Dunk Champion and NBA legend Larry Nance Sr., Nance Jr. has hops that rival that of his father, and maybe even better. Dunking is not all the young power forward is good at though, as he displays a maturity and discipline out on the court that is much more polished than the other young bucks on the Lakers today.

While Larry’s Laker career didn’t exactly get off to a great start thanks to a not-so-friendly tweet concerning an NBA/Laker legend,

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I think it’s safe to say the fans have forgotten all about this little bump in the road, as Lakernation clearly considers him a favorite. Always looking to make the right play, whether it’s the extra pass, the discipline to help on defense or the hustle plays to get the boards or loose balls, Larry has proven himself on the court and inspired a change of heart in a fanbase that was ready to rip his head off after digging through his twitter feed.

With tons of room to grow and an inevitable frontcourt jam heading into the season, Larry Nance Jr. must prove himself once again that he has just as bright a future as the rest of the young core. He’s certainly building quite the resume to back that up…

His welcome to the NBA (preseason) moment:

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The one where he graciously baptizes David West and proceeds to end him, all in one gif.

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And of course, the classic, “Dunked on him so hard he became my teammate”.

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2017: Kyle Kuzma

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And last but certainly not least, the team’s most recent draft pick, Kyle Kuzma. After draft night, many among Lakernation (including myself) were scratching their heads when the 27th pick was called. Everybody had the same question in mind: “Who is Kyle Kuzma?” After summer league though, Kuzma gave fans more than enough reason to remember his name.

After three seasons playing NCAA basketball for Utah, the young forward showcased just how goo he is as a dynamic stretch 4. His combination of shooting, transition scoring and smart passing make him the ideal fit in Luke Walton’s system. He also showed great competitive edge when he had got matched up with guys like 3rd overall pick Jayson Tatum, proving himself serviceable in 1-on-1 coverage. Seeing him run the wings in transition and catching full- court touchdown passes from Lonzo Ball might be a sight we’ll be seeing for years to come. Coming away with Summer League Finals MVP and averaging 21.9 PPG, 6.4 REB, 2.7 APG, 1.1 STL, 1.4 BLK on 51.4% FG, he’ll surely command minutes, seeing as he’s the only viable stretch 4 the team can rely on at this point.

If they don’t get a jumpshot soon, Nance Jr. and Julius Randle may very well lose some of their minutes to the up and coming Kyle Kuzma – the Lakers newfound gem at number 27.

Building through the draft has been a popular strategy for NBA teams in recent years. With the value of draft picks sky rocketing significantly in this modern era, it’s pivotal for a team’s front office to exercise its due diligence and maximize a pick based on its position on the board.

In all honesty, sports drafts are glorified crapshoots, and the NBA’s no different. There’s so many variables in play that player evaluation doesn’t always rest upon a prospect’s college career, and banking on potential to translate in the pros will never be a sure-fire endeavor. With that said, many teams have had great luck in the draft, and the Lakers have certainly been nothing short of magic at number 27.

Lakers NBA Draft ’17 Recap

The Los Angeles Lakers came away from Brooklyn, New York with draft night that has a lot of fans excited for the future. Spearheaded by Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka in their first draft as a NBA front office, the Lakers added a handful of young talent that would surely make this year’s Summer League something to look forward to once again.

At the #2 slot, the team got their guy in Lonzo Ball, effectively ushering in the Ball era in Los Angeles. The Big Baller Brand was well represented in the ceremonies, as ESPN gave an ample amount of screen time to the Big Baller himself, LaVar Ball, who as of Thursday night, has spoken the Ball dream into existence. Hoops fans around the world were treated to more than a few classic LaVar promos.

Ball wasn’t the only rookie picked by the purple and gold that night, as the team made some moves that ended with the team acquiring a total of 4 draft picks on the night. they flipped their 28th pick to the Utah Jazz and received picks 30 and 42.

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With the 27th pick, the Lakers selected Kyle Kuzma, a junior from Utah. Potentially a versatile power forward in the NBA level, the 21 year old measures in at 6″9 with a 7″0 wingspan, is capable of scoring in transition and is more than comfortable running the floor in an open court offense. His shot does need some work, but Kuzma has the potential to be serviceable stretch 4 in the league if he can overcome consistency issues on his mechanics. So far, the kid seems to happy to be a Laker.

For the last pick of the first round, the Lakers selected Josh Hart from Villanova. While not as young as most of his peers in the draft, the shooting guard’s four years in a winning program along with his skills as a shooter and competitiveness as a defender suggests that he can contribute right away in the NBA level.

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Averaging 18 points a game at 57% clip and 40% shooting from deep he projects to help a team devoid of any real outside threats, and his physical profile at 6″6 with a 6″8 wingspan will help him possibly cover 1-3 positions defensively.

Thanks to the maneuvering of the front office, the team also got to pick in the second round, which initially they weren’t supposed to. They selected 19 year old Center Thomas Bryant from Indiana. As a 42nd pick, Bryant looks to be a nice find late in the draft, as he has a serviceable jump shot that can stretch all the way from beyond the arc and a high motor that allowed him to average 9.5 rebounds per 40 minutes and his length at 6″10 with a 7″6 wingspan permits him to block 2.2 shots per 40 min. He does have mobility issues at his size which poses questions about how serviceable he can be in the pros, but his youth leaves a lot of room for him to grow and his fulfill his potential as a valuable stretch 5.

Thomas Bryant

As the draft itself concluded, the Lakers were not quite done adding rookies to the squad. ESPN reports that South Carolina guard P.J. Dozier signed a free agent contract with the Lakers.

While going undrafted shows some concerns as to how Dozier’s game, as it is quite raw at this stage, will translate to the  next level, he shows potential as playmaker and an athletic finisher off the dribble. Measuring in at 6″6 with shoes and a 6″11 wingspan at the NBA draft combine, he is an oversized guard, who if he can develop a reliable jumpshot and rounds out his playmaking skills, can become a mismatch for the rest of the league who would thrive in Luke Walton’s offense. Details of his contract are still a mystery, but us fans can be certain that he will be able to showcase his talents in the upcoming Las Vegas Summer League, along the other young talented rookies and second year guys from the Lakers.

PJ Dozier

The Lakers came out of Brooklyn with a very solid draft that looked to primarily address the team’s shooting needs, in hopes of implementing an open floor type of play with a heavy emphasis on ball movement and team defense. After watching film on these new crop of rookies, and after hearing from Magic and Pelinka themselves in a recent press conference, these guys  keep the ball moving and play a disciplined and mature game of basketball.

The team intends to build around Ball as the new face of the Lakers, and it did so by drafting what they claim as complimentary pieces late in the draft that will help the new Lakers point guard set the table and bring Showtime back to Hollywood.

Lakers Trade D’Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov To Nets For Brook Lopez And 27th Pick

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The Los Angeles Lakers have traded second year point guard D’Angelo Russell and veteran Timofey Mozgov to the Brooklyn Nets for Brook Lopez and their 27th pick in this year’s draft, according to a report by Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical.

After clearing the rubble of what is currently the biggest Woj bomb of this crazy NBA offseason, the Lakers have managed to liberate themselves from the monster contract worth over $15M for the next three years while taking in Brook Lopez whose contract expires after this year and also getting 27th pick, bringing their total of draft pick for this year up to three (Along with #2 and #28).

As we unpack this blockbuster trade, there are a few key takeaways for both teams. For the Lakers, by shedding a big contract you set yourself up for a potential Paul George trade, in which negotiations have already entered the preliminary stages.  This also makes the Lakers intentions for Thursday’s lottery clear: they will be drafting Lonzo Ball to take the reigns at point now left open due to the departure of Russell.

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It’s also worth noting that this move may very well be a clue as to what Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka have in store for the purple and gold in the near future.

While this trade may have helped the Lakers in many respects, some of which I’ve touched on earlier, it didn’t come without a price, and depending on how next season and beyond play out, it may entail huge consequences. D’Angelo Russell, fresh off just his second season is moving to Brooklyn to play for head coach Kenny Atkinson and the woeful Nets. Many Lakers fans shared the same reaction after witnessing a fresh Woj bomb drop this afternoon, a reaction that is perfectly summed up with this classic Russell GIF:

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A former 2nd overall pick who has actually played really well in his 2 seasons in the league, and showed a lot of promise last season, especially after the all star break. With averages of 15.6 points, 3.3 rebounds and 4.8 assists on a mere 28.7 minute per game, he has shown nice productivity in limited action.

It was tough to find out he was let go after such a short tenure in the purple and gold. I think it’s not much of a stretch to say that if the Lakers’ young core each reached their potential, it would have been something special to watch homegrown talent built from the draft to rise and bring a storied franchise back to prominence.

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In light of this hefty reduction, the Lakers arsenal is still well equipped with assets and young talent that make plenty other franchise altering moves possible. As crazy as this offseason has been so far, the rumor season is not quite done just yet. With draft starting in a few days and free agency not far away, the rest of the league hast its eyes set on what Magic Johnson and the Lakers are going to do next.

 

NBA Season Recap: WWE Edition

Another NBA season is in the books, and there was no shortage of drama and storylines that kept every basketball fan on their seats. Around this time, as the NBA Finals have finally come to a close, us fans are able to look back at a memorable season that has set Twitter ablaze a few times this past year. All the tension and the drama motivated by various stroylines of this past season makes me think of a parallel universe where the NBA is the WWE. This season had intense feuds, inspiring comebacks and epic showcases of greatness, and as a way to recap a year of hoops, I’ll be locking myself up in my dreamatorium and look back at this NBA season through the millions (and millions) of eyes of the WWE universe.

DX / OKC Break Up

I believe it’s only fitting that I start this recap with the infamous story that broke on the 4th of July, an event that had everyone in anticipation for the start of the season, to see two brothers go to war against each other. As soon as Kevin Durant announced his “new chapter” on the Player’s Tribune, the Brodie was left high and dry.

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It was time for KD to start winning a ring, and it seems like the only way to do it was turn his back on the Brodie. Without even so much as a phone call, and after being up 3-1 in the Western Conference Finals, your comrade leaves to jump over the fence to join the very team you were just 1 game from beating to head to the Finals. That had to be as painful as the excruciatingly long wind up time to set up and hit a Pedigree.

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Triple H turned his back on D Generation X, and straight up planted Shawn Michaels on to the mat signifying that he seriously intends to chase that gold, and thus effectively beginning a legendary feud between two close friends, and ending a superstar tandem. The KD-Russ feud is a perfect parallel of the Triple H-Shawn Michaels feud in terms of the level of talent involved, the jaw dropping betrayal and the incredible amount of hype fueled by the fans that continued to throw wood in the fire and proceeded to pour gallons and gallons kerosene through a bevy of twitter memes.

No one’s going to deny each superstar’s greatness but now we can only play “what if?” when reminiscing about these two superstars and openly wonder what would’ve happened if they remained together.

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Brodie 3:16

With the last one standing out of the original young Thunder core, Russell Westbrook went on a mission. In a league where super teams are the trend, Westbrook was the lone superstar on the Thunder, and THE man of Oklahoma City.

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As soon as the season Westbrook hit the ground running, en route to a record breaking 42(!) triple doubles in a season surpassing Oscar Robertson’s old record from a lifetime ago. In a super team era, it was refreshing to see players like him put the team on his back and lead his teams through sheer grit and tenacity only the Brodie can play with. He wasn’t interested in making friends with anybody. You were either with him (on his team) or against him, and like the Tasmanian devil, he ran rampant through the league with reckless abandon, ala Stone Cold Steve Austin, WWE’s number one badass. There are a number of Stone Cold antics from his book of badassery you could choose from, but Westbrook’s season, to me, showed shades of Stone Cold driving a Zamboni into a WWE ring in Detroit and proceeded to charge the ring full of police, with the only intention of letting all hell loose upon “The Corporation”.

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The season may not have ended in a title, but there’s no denying the greatness of Russell Westbrook. With all the noise about him being a selfish player that drove a superstar out of town and a player that only cared about getting his, Westbrook started and finished the season exemplifying incredible competitive spirit, all while telling everyone, “Why Not?”.

And (for now), that’s the bottom line, ’cause the Brodie said so.

Underdogs

Isaiah Thomas had one of the most inspiring postseason runs in recent memory, and I’ll be the last person on this planet to ever compliment a Celtic, but this man, former Mr. Irrelevant as the 60th pick of the 2011 draft, makes it extremely hard for a Laker fan to hate on him. I’m not going to shower praise on Isaiah Thomas, the Celtic, I’m praising Isaiah Thomas, the man. After the tragic loss of his sister in a fatal car crash, this man still showed up on the basketball court for Game 1 of the playoffs and dropped 33 points on the Bulls.

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Although they lost that game, IT showed tremendous heart, and ultimately won the series. The resilience and toughness you saw from 5″9 guard no one ever knew would ascend to the status of an MVP caliber player and a big time scorer in a league of giants, Isaiah Thomas embodied the ultimate underdog, the same way the masked man of the 619 handled business in the squared circle despite his size.

People tend to judge others based on physical appearance, and both Thomas and Rey Mysterio are familiar with that type of scrutiny. Most people never thought guys like them would excel in their respective profession. Even the Lakers doubted Thomas, who made it clear that he wanted to play for the purple and gold, by deciding to pass on signing the talented point guard.

Though at first you might see each athlete as handicapped or disadvantaged in their respective field, there’s no doubt they make it work, and they’re rather good at what they do. Heck, Isaiah Thomas was so good in the series against the Bulls that he had their head coach Fred Hoiberg pointing out that the point guard “carries the ball” on every possession.

Ok, Fred.

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These past playoffs silenced a lot of critics, and while they may not entirely go away, Thomas has that 53 point performance in the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Wizards to show his them. Like the Brodie, his journey may not have ended in a championship, but if anything, he showed that he does possess the heart of a champion. But as a Laker fan, I hope he keeps that heart of a champion, and leave the real championships to us.

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Golden State NEXUS

I hate to say it, especially since I’m not talking about my team, but this looks to be the beginning of a dynasty. The Golden State Warriors have won 2 of the last 3 championships, and while they were impressive during their first title run, this past season they acquired an exceptional talent that could change the fortunes of any franchise, but in this case, they’re like the Juggernaut jacked up on adamantium, all because of one offseason acquisition:

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Javale McGee

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In all seriousness, I don’t think I have ever seen any team dominate the league the way the Warriors have done. You could certainly argue that they’re “light years” ahead of any team. Seemingly out of nowhere, Golden State took the league by storm, the way the Nexus took to the ring unannounced, and swung for the biggest fish they could find in John Cena; the same way the Warriors knocked out the best player in the game: LeBron James.

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The way the Nexus took rings apart and destroyed whichever target stood in their way parallels Golden State’s dominance of the NBA. And if that wasn’t enough, both “factions” added a superstar that made it even more difficult for the top dog.

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Like CM Punk before him, Kevin Durant was the adamantium boost to the NBA’s Juggernaut, raising questions about who the “best in the world” truly is.

The Face That Runs The Place

LeBron James is undoubtedly the face of the NBA. As a high school phenom from Akron, Ohio, the league built him up and raised him as the face of one of the most profitable sports league in the world. There’s no questioning LeBron’s greatness, as he’s been the best player in the league for sometime now, but is it fair to question his teams’ greatness?

After suffering a season ending loss at the hands of the Warriors, James was posed a question by Basketball Insiders’ Eric Pincus about super teams, having been in super teams both in Miami and now currently in Cleveland, and whether or not he supports the formation of super teams having faced a stacked Warriors team.

Really?

LeBron James seems to be suffering from a bit of memory loss, because I seem to recall you predicting you would win “not 5, not 6, not 7…” rings with Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and the crew. His refusal to acknowledge the fact that he played for a super team, in which by the way he was the architect of, seems to rival another person’s refusal to face the music.

LeBron James is John Cena.

John Cena, WWE’s own face of the company, unquestionably the lead guy that they meticulously built their business around for the past decade, has rolled out the same tired routine all these years the same way LeBron still takes exception to facts of him playing on/building super teams. Cena refuses to turn heel, and has totally embraced being the clean cut, top guy that represents the WWE, the same way LeBron refuses “turn heel” even for just a tiny bit and admit to being on stacked teams instead of washing his hands clean.

Ok, this may have been a reach with the “heel turn”, but in all honesty, both men have been great in their respective professions, and carried their responsibilities as the “face of the franchise”, whether it’s winning titles and championships, or through their philanthropy and charity work. With all that said, they’re now both legends in their own right and household names that have filled our living rooms for the past decade.

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Salute!

Draft Preview: LAVARSZN

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Lavar Ball’s mic skills are second to none. His promo work thus far has been so captivating, that no matter how ridiculous it is, people listen and people react. Give this guy a mic and you’re guaranteed a soundbite, which is one of the biggest reasons the media always has time for a Lavar segment.

I’m 100% sure, if he’s employed by the WWE, he would be the absolute best manager in history. It doesn’t matter which wrestler you pair him up with, Lavar could sell Santino Marella vs. Doink the Clown as the main event of Wrestlemania. Yes, I’m saying Lavar Ball is basketball’s Paul Heyman.

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Paul Heyman is a promo savant who’s instantly greeted by pops by the WWE universe as soon as he enters the arena. He consistently has the audience on the edge of their seats with the way he cuts a promo and hypes up a pay per view event or a marquee match-up. He knows how to get people’s attention and he does it by simply uttering words into a mic with unbridled passion and aggression. Heyman has been the mouthpiece of talented wrestlers over the years like Brock Lesnar, as he touts himself as “the advocate of the beast”.

With the draft days away, it’s sure to be a worldwide spectacle as to what Lavar Ball does during the event. Will my Lakers draft the hometown kid? What happens if their mission of getting Ball to LA fails? More importantly, what will the cameras capture when it turns to Lavar for a reaction after the 2nd pick has been selected?

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Lavar Ball is more than a father at this point. He is an advocate; the advocate of young phenom Lonzo Ball and the rest of Big Baller Brand.

Whatever happens, it’s safe to say the elder Ball will continue to be the mouthpiece of Big Baller Brand, as he builds Lonzo’s brand and hype up the Ball name.

After June 22, the NBA will never be the same.

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