Lonzo Ball grew up with his father showing him tapes of Magic Johnson’s old games.
Now, the five-time champion and leader of the Showtime Lakers is offering himself as Ball’s personal mentor.
In fact, Johnson, the Lakers’ President of Basketball Operations, sees Ball as family.
“When he comes up in my office, I don’t want to be his boss,” Johnson said at Media Day on Monday. “I just want to be his big brother and give him either a pat on the back or some information to help him.”
The 19-year-old Ball has already grown close with the 58-year-old Hall of Famer. There’s just one area where he disagrees.
“He’s like an uncle,” Ball laughed. “More of an uncle. He’s a little too old to be my brother. I appreciate him.”
Regardless of age, the Lakers’ point guards of past and present have formed a connection heading into Ball’s first training camp.
Lonzo said the two were immediately able to relate given how Magic found himself in a similar situation as a rookie in 1979.
Now all Ball has to do is climb the set of stairs to Johnson’s office whenever he needs some advice.
“He’s the best point guard to ever play in my opinion,” Ball said. “He’s right up there. I can go see him whenever I want. He’s always willing to talk to me.”
Johnson wants to provide Ball the kind of guidance that Jerry West, Bill Sharman and Chick Hearn gave him back in the day.
But the 12-time All-Star also sees natural confidence in Ball, whom he says is ready to take on a Western Conference loaded with talent at his position.
“Every night he’s going to go against a great, great, Hall of Fame type point guard,” Johnson said. “But this is why we lace them up. This is why he wanted to get drafted to the Lakers. This is why we picked him — so we can put him in those types of games and situations.”
But Ball isn’t the only young Laker with tall expectations.
While Magic sees a lot of himself in Lonzo, he likens Brandon Ingram to Showtime teammate and fellow Hall of Famer James Worthy.
“I think this is going to be a breakout season for B.I.,” Johnson said. “We need him to step up and be the leading scorer on this team, and really just be aggressive on the offensive end.”
Ingram spent the offseason reworking his jump shot and adding some muscle to his build. He also focused on becoming more explosive and vocal on the floor.
There was hardly a day when Ingram wasn’t working at the UCLA Health Training Center. In fact, the 20-year-old was in so often that coaches and trainers had to tell him to take days off for recovery.
But Ingram confessed that there were times where he’d come in anyway.
“Sometimes I snuck in,” Ingram laughed. “But sometimes I had to listen to my body.”
Johnson is convinced that this work ethic will lead to a huge leap for the sophomore.
Ingram averaged 9.4 points as a rookie but scored 26 in his only Summer League game. He believes that he can meet Magic’s goal of being the Lakers’ leading scorer — with some help from Lonzo, of course.
“That’s something I expect out of myself along with being a leader on the defensive end,” Ingram said. “I know our point guard is going to help us score a lot of easy baskets this year.”