Lakers' young stars bond by roasting each other on social media

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- At a recent Lakers practice, Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma are in complete sync with each other, their budding chemistry on full display without even a split second of hesitation.

The two Lakers rookies are on the offensive, taking shots at a rapid-fire pace. And they don't even have a basketball in their hands.

As the two rookies sit on stationary bikes next to each other at the Lakers' practice facility, Ball and Kuzma are doing something that has sort of become a fun hobby -- they're making fun of each other as if they're on a Comedy Central roast, firing jabs about everything from their fashion sense to who can get the most likes or get a roast to go viral on social media to who can clap back at a dis the best.

"I am," Ball says when asked who is the best Laker at roasting.

"Probably me," Kuzma replies at the same time. "Really, every time I post something, it goes viral."

"Mine does, too," Ball retorts.

"His doesn't really go viral," Kuzma explains.

"Mine does, too," Ball counters.

"Mine's actually funny though," Kuzma answers.

Brandon Ingram adds later: "Kuz is the best. But Zo has so many followers, Zo can get a laugh out of anybody so Zo is going to win regardless."

The future core of the Los Angeles Lakers is built on Ingram, Ball and Kuzma. And as they take baby steps toward becoming what Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka hope will be a championship core, the young Lakers are forging a tight bond off the court that could pay big dividends on the court in the future. They begin their post All-Star break hoping to display that chemistry with Ball's expected return from a 15-game absence due to injury against Dallas at 10:30 p.m. ET on ESPN.

Since Las Vegas Summer League in July, Ball, Kuzma, Ingram and Josh Hart have gotten to know each other and grown comfortable around each other by joking with one another, often making each other the butt of a joke all out of love. But growing up as part of the social media age, Kuzma and Ball's punchlines sometimes spill out from the locker room onto Twitter and Instagram.

"OK, I can't help [having the most followers]," Ball says of Ingram's pointing out that Ball wins every roast because of his 4.2 million followers on Instagram and 706,000 followers on Twitter. "That's not my fault."

"All that matters is if you can clap back," says Kuzma, who has 1.2 million followers on Instagram and another 254,000 followers on Twitter. "That's why you see he stopped going at me. Because he knows."

While every team has its moments of in-house drama, the majority of these Lakers genuinely seem to like being around one another.

"As the season has progressed, everyone has gotten a lot closer," Ingram says. "Whether it is talking off the court, whether it is talking on the basketball court, we really have had a bond. Especially when we were winning games. There is a correlation between when we were winning, we are having fun, it translates off the court and we get to learn a little bit more about each other's personalities."

Ball, Kuzma and Hart all think they're the roast master. The soft-spoken Ingram is humble and just likes having fun and watching it all unfold. They all have their favorite moments and as long as they have new material to work with, they won't stop.

"I think the fleece sweater started it," Ball says.

"Noooo," Kuzma blurts out. "That didn't start it."

"That is when it got big though," Ball counters.

"No, I got it big first! I said something about his clothes," Kuzma says about Ball.

"Oh, he said I dressed like a [kid with the Velcro shoes]. Yeah, he did say that," Ball admits. "That's where it started."

The roasts can start when one of the Lakers sees the perfect opportunity to strike and post something funny on Instagram or Twitter. Kuzma made fun of Ball's Velcro shoes when he shot a short video of his attire during a road trip earlier this season and it was almost like a mini-war broke out.

When Kuzma showed up in Chicago wearing a brown faux fur coat, the entire team jumped on Kuzma's back. As Kuzma got dressed before talking to the media postgame, Julius Randle, Ball and other Lakers players began shouting in the locker room for Kuzma to show the world his jacket. Randle finally walked over and made Kuzma put on the jacket in front of the cameras.

An embarrassed Kuzma couldn't stop laughing and neither could his teammates as Jordan Clarkson came over and showed the jacket to media members as if he were a salesman, pointing out why the ladies love the jacket.

The moment went viral, as did the picture of Kuzma arriving to that game with the jacket on looking like a model in a magazine shoot.

"The Kuzma jacket ... the squirrel fur," Hart says. "That's definitely the best one."

One of Ball's bigger roasts was his series of posts on Kuzma's gray Nike Tech Fleece jacket. Ball kept making fun of how Kuzma kept wearing the jacket on a road trip. When Ball, Kuzma and Ingram walked into a movie theater in Oklahoma City the day before a game to watch "Jumanji," the trio got two golden moments out of the outing.

Kuzma shot video of a poster of an upcoming movie called "Slender Man." The poster features a silhouette of a tall, thin figure with elongated arms and legs.

"Brandon Ingram's new movie ... 'Slender Man,'" Kuzma says as he busts out laughing while pointing the video at Ingram, who smiles. "Coming soon."

Ball adds, "Coming to a court near you."

After the movie, Ball shoots a saddened Kuzma coming out of the theater with a big butter stain on his beloved fleece jacket. Ball laughs as he points the camera at the stain and says, "He hurt. He's hurt! And the [fleece] saga ends."

The videos have resonated with fans. Someone asked Ingram to autograph a "Slender Man" picture to Ball's and Kuzma's delight.

Trying to pick their favorite moment is like a trip down memory lane, even though the roasts just happened within a couple of months.

"Fleece is live," Ball says.

"Fleece is up there," Kuzma adds.

"Oooh, Slender Man is up there, too!" Ball chimes in.

"Slender Man or fleece. Or the hospital shoes he had on," Kuzma counters. "Velcro, yeah."

"Yeah, that's top three," Ball concurs. "They were on sale at Vans. That was a good pickup for me.

"The fleece is my best roast for sure."

"Because people in Chicago and in random places will say, where's your fleece at?" Kuzma adds with a laugh.

"So funny," Ball says. "And people having Brandon signing a 'Slender Man' poster."

There is a limit to the roasting. Kuzma and Ball say there are certain teammates they aren't sure are built out for this.

"I wouldn't go after Brook [Lopez]," Ball says.

"Yeah, I wouldn't go after Brook, he might take it personal," Kuzma adds. "[Ivica Zubac] don't talk much, [too]."

"Yeah, I wouldn't do Zu," Ball agrees. "He's too harmless."

The young Lakers know there are lines that can be crossed and they choose not to.

"See, what you got to know is there's set boundaries," Ball says. "Like certain stuff you can't [bring up]."

There are times when the busting back and forth is not suitable for social media. Following most shootarounds and practices, Kuzma and Ball will take on assistant coaches Brian Shaw and Miles Simon in a 3-point shooting game. The game, which has gone on all season, is highly competitive and filled with a ton of trash-talking and expletives.

"Miles Simon is the worst roaster ... of roast history," Kuzma says.

"He's the worst because he gets too sensitive," Ball continues.

"He gets too sensitive," Kuzma chimes in.

"And then he starts saying personal stuff," Ball deadpans. "That does not need to be said."

And Ball and Kuzma never take any of it personally?

"Nah," Ball says with a straight face.

"Nah. Never," Kuzma follows.

"There's a line," Ball says again with a straight face. "Miles crosses it."

"Miles crosses that line," Kuzma also deadpans.

"I don't think any of it is printable," Ball says of Simon's trash-talking. "It's pretty bad. Anything we tell you right now is going to ruin his reputation."

Still, the trash-talking sessions with Shaw and Simon won't stop anytime soon. And neither will the roasting.

"[It won't stop] 'til we grow up," Kuzma says.

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