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Lonzo Ball Is Basketball’s Summer Blockbuster

The Lakers rookie put on a 36-point Las Vegas performance in front of LeBron

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Lonzo Ball is fun.

There is no need to define his performance on Wednesday night against the Sixers. There’s no need to judge it, spoil it, or even extrapolate anything from it to confirm your beliefs. There’s only the need to enjoy it. Try it.

This is why this game is great. Because when you just decide to enjoy a weeknight in, and you turn on some summer league basketball, you expect to get background noise. You’re not really expecting to get drawn in and engrossed by a meaningless game. But on Wednesday, Lonzo pulled in a thirsty audience and satiated their fix with a majestic performance.

In 36 minutes, and with LeBron in attendance, Lonzo dropped 36 points and dished out 11 assists, while racking up eight boards, a whopping five steals, and two blocks. After missing a game due to a sore groin, and getting the expected treatment for "ducking" De’Aaron Fox, Lonzo’s rebuttal was a hell-bent joyride during which he brought the Lakers back from a 15-point deficit and delivered a one-point win, sending L.A. to the next round of the summer league tournament. "It’s the playoffs," Lonzo said afterward. More power to you, man.

Unlike his first game in Vegas, and at the reported behest of Luke Walton, Lonzo was feeling his stroke. He shot 9-of-12 on 2-pointers, got to the rim repeatedly, and downed one more 3 than he had in his first two games combined. (All while wearing the Nike Kobe ADs, not the $495 ZO2s, which are his signature shoes.) The accoutrements of the blocks and steals were nice, but the main dish, as always, was his eye-popping passes, including this ridiculous outlet clinic he put on in the first quarter.

There was also this twirling, Cinderella-like spin pass for a 3.

And a whole lot more. Lonzo controlled the second-half tempo with ease. He dominated in every aspect while refusing to take himself out of the action, and gave the Lakers the lead with a strong-armed layup. To be clear, the game would have likely been unwatchable and uninteresting had he not played.

By no fault of his own, Lonzo’s spotlight is ever-growing. He is the main attraction of summer league, and, increasingly the NBA summer — the most fascinating player from this class of über-impressive rookies. The spotlight will only grow brighter, the noise louder, the ballers bigger. But his play is the antidote to the madness; it has the power to command the conversation. On nights like these, we aren’t thinking or talking about LaVar, what he’s said, or what he’s saying. We’re talking about that no-look pass, that pull-up 3, and that acrobatic layup that led to a 3-point play. We’re talking about Lonzo because of Lonzo.

We saw flashes of Lonzo’s potential greatness in college, and summer league has at least shown us flickers of flames, but most importantly, it’s reminded us why basketball, even in its most meaningless state, can be as fun as ever. For that alone we should just enjoy Lonzo. Just do it.