They say that life’s greatest glory is not in never failing but in rising every time we fall. For D’angelo Russell, his failure was what led him to becoming an NBA All-Star
By Nicole Ganglani | Lead photo from NBA
All eyes were on D’Angelo Russell ever since he was selected second in the 2015 NBA draft class by the Los Angeles Lakers. Not only was he chosen second but he was selected by a team that carried drastic weight in the NBA—which only meant that Russell had a lot of expectations to meet.
The expectation to bring brighter days in Los Angeles. That’s what general manager Mitch Kupchak, Lakers’ owner Jeanie Buss, and millions of the franchise’s fan base around the world wanted out of Russell and nothing less. The rookie from Ohio State knew he was going to be teaming up with five-time NBA champion Kobe Bryant then and had high hopes of making himself a premiere franchise point guard since the reigns of the great Magic Johnson.
Normally, if you are a top pick in the draft class, it’s a given that there will be pressure to prove yourself not only to the team you were drafted by but to the league. Russell came out of Ohio State averaging 19 points, five rebounds, and five assists, a factor that made the Lakers believe he was going the future star in Los Angeles.
But it turns out, Russell’s tenure wiould only last for two unfortunate years.
He had his breakout moments, accomplishments even, one of that being the youngest player to hit 130 three-pointers in a season in Lakers history. He had games where he set career highs and even showed the potential of what it takes to be a future All-Star. However, his shortcomings as a rising guard were overpowering his positive assets.
In his second season, Russell’s performance was so inconsistent that the Lakers management were left disappointed. This was also the same year when the front office that selected Russell in the draft was replaced by Rob Pelinka and Magic Johnson, thus moving the team in another direction.
The same season, he got into a public fight with teammate Nick Young who accused Russell of exposing Young’s infidelity to the public. Since then, he was not only criticised as a bust but also as kid who still needed some maturing to do.
His relationship with head coach Byron Scott was not exactly the most pristine. The Lakers were also on the verge of entering their third draft lottery for the third straight year on the lookout for point guard Lonzo Ball then, and it seemed that Russell was no longer the rising superstar Magic Johnson and company wanted.
“D’Angelo is an excellent player. He has the talent to be an All-Star. We want to thank him for what he did for us, but what I needed was a leader,” mentioned Magic Johnson. “I needed somebody also that can make the other players better, and also that players want to play with.
Russell was then traded to the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for Brook Lopez who at that time could vastly contribute more on the post. And since that moment, the team’s 2015 draft pick was gone.
Russell’s move to Brooklyn was a fresh start. He was like that transferee entering a new school along with new people and a new system. The Nets needed a legitimate point guard and they knew Russell was going to be the perfect fit.
Eager to prove his critics wrong, the guard wasted no time after finishing his first regular season game in a Brooklyn Nets uniform with 30 points and five assists. Since then, D’angelo has constantly grown with the Nets system and has displayed his potential night in and night out including the time he recorded his first triple double with a 18-13-11 performance against the Raptors. He still has inconsistencies, but that’s how it is for every superstar on the rise—they just need a team to believe in them.
Russell is currently the superstar of Brooklyn. Averaging 19 points, six assists, and three rebounds per game, the kid from Kentucky has brought the Nets back in the playoffs race as they currently sit on the sixth spot in the Eastern Conference.
Russell’s best game so far this season? When he hit the game winner against his former team last December to seal the game for Brooklyn. The game winner that did not just stun Lebron and the Lakers but also depicted payback at its finest.
To add more ice in his veins, Russell was selected as a reserve in this season’s NBA All-Star Game replacing Indiana Pacers guard Victor Oladipo.
“I was on a plane,” Russell told nba.com. “We just traveled from San Antonio. I heard the news and then coach congratulated me, told me. He was the first one to break it to me. I was in awe on the plane. I’m a crier, honestly. I was holding my tears in.
From a so-called “bust” to an NBA All-Star, D’angelo Russell may still have a lot to prove, but it’s no question that he deserves to be in the NBA All-Star Game after leading and bringing a winning culture to Brooklyn. Suffice to say that in a world full of Magic Johnsons, be a D’angelo Russell who proves his non-believers wrong and rises up from failure to succeed.
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