At the Cavaliers’ shootaround in New York, James congratulated the Lakers rookie on topping his record and said Ball is going to be “probably a great point guard” if he keeps working.
“It’s motivation,” Ball said when told of the comments at the Lakers’ shootaround before the Lakers’ game against Phoenix. “Personally, LeBron, if he says that it’s like an honor. So I’m gonna work and keep trying to get better every day.”
On Saturday, Ball became the youngest player to post a triple-double in NBA history when he had 19 points, 13 assists and 12 rebounds to go with three steals and three blocks in a loss at Milwaukee. Ball posted his first career triple-double at 20 years and 15 days old, passing James, who held the record at 20 years, 20 days old back in 2004-05.
“I definitely think back to when I was that young,” James said according to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. “There’s not many games that I can remember when I was 20 years old or 19 or even 18. So first of all, congratulations to him.
“I think he’s going to be a really, really good point guard in our league, probably a great point guard if he continues to work on his craft, which it seems like he does. They got a good one.”
This is not the first time James has sent well wishes to Ball. When Ball turned 20 in late October, the Cavaliers star tweeted to him: “Happy Gday young King @ZO2_! Live it up on your day! #LiveLaughLove #StriveForGreatness “
And during the Las Vegas summer league, James also took time to sit courtside and watch Ball and the Lakers play. Ball’s favorite player growing up is James, who can become a free agent after this season. The Lakers have their eyes set on this coming free agency with hopes of landing one to two stars.
For now, the Lakers are focused on developing their young players like Ball, who has dealt with possibly more scrutiny, hype and attention than any other rookie since James.
“Yeah, he’s been incredible,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said. “With the world we live in today, with all the social media and everything, the amount of buildup and coverage that has been done on such a young player is kind of insane, and he has handled it great, he’s been playing great. He’s doing all the things that we hope he would do when we drafted him. You got to give the young man a lot of credit for how he carries himself and how he handles himself.”
“If someone like LeBron said that about me, I would feel pretty dang good about myself,” Walton added on James’ comments. “But hopefully he already feels like that because we tell him that all the time. I think he is a confident young man that knows what he is capable of doing, but it is always nice to have another peer, and obviously not just a normal peer, one of the all-time greats, say that should feel pretty good.”