Brandon Ingram on filling Kobe's shoes: 'It's going to motivate me'

ByJovan Buha, Special to ESPN logo
Wednesday, July 6, 2016

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- As ifBrandon Ingram's slight frame needed any more weight on its shoulders, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2016 NBA draft learned Tuesday that he will be taking over Kobe Bryant's former practice locker.

Talk about pressure.

"I saw where my locker was, and I definitely knew it was Kobe's locker," Ingram said Tuesday at his introductory news conference at theLos Angeles Lakers' training facility. "I know [general manager] Mitch [Kupchak] told me I had some big shoes to fill when I came in here, but I liked it. I like the pressure that's on meright now. It's going to motivate me to do good things on the court. It's all good pressure for me."

Ivica Zubac, the Lakers' selection with the No. 32 overall pick in the draft, was introduced alongside Ingram, and he was asked if he is jealous that Ingram inherited Bryant's locker, as Zubac was a die-hard Bryant and Lakers fan growing up.

Zubac laughed. "No, he can have that pressure," he said.

Like Bryant before him, the 18-year-old Ingram plans on proving his doubters and skeptics wrong.

While some top draft picks are gifted spots in the starting lineup or a set number of minutes, Ingram will have to fend off Luol Deng--a 12-year veteran and fellow Duke Blue Devil whom the Lakers reportedly signed to a four-year, $72 million deal in free agency -- for the team's starting small forward spot and minutes in the rotation. Yet Ingram claims he isn't intimidated by the challenge. He plans to win that battle while learning and growing under Deng's guidance and wisdom.

"I haven't talked to him yet, but I plan to pick his brain on different things," Ingram said. "He's been in this league for a very long time. I hear nothing but good things about him. In practice, I plan on competing against him each and every day. It's up to the coaches who starts."

If Ingram can't outperform Deng and earn his way into the starting lineup, he will be upset. At the end of the day, though, he said he will do whatever new head coach Luke Walton asks of him, including accepting a bench role or fewer minutes.

"Of course, from my competitive side, it matters to me," Ingram said. "But if I have to be a reserve, I'll be coachable enough to do whatever the coach tells me to do."

His ability to be coached was Ingram's key talking point Tuesday. He seemed open to just about anything, as long as Walton suggests or supports it.

At the same time, Ingram is self-aware and comfortable with his identity, and he knows what he brings to the Lakers. He's a scorer, first and foremost, and he believes he won't have many issues scoring at the next level.

"I think if you can score the ball, you can play at any level," Ingram said. "I don't think it's a big adjustment for me. Just playing against stronger guys, I know I have to adjust a little bit, like I did at the college level."

Ingram's ability to score will first be on display in the Las Vegas Summer League, which begins Friday at UNLV's Thomas & Mack Center. There, Ingram will get a chance to show the NBA world how he fits alongside teammateD'Angelo Russellin Walton's new up-tempo system and how his rookie season might play out.

Ingram's height (6-foot-10), weight (196 pounds), skill set and body type have drawn comparisons to another slender scoring wing, new Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant,and Ingram couldn't escape another question regarding whether he sees the similarities between himself and a young Durant.

"Of course, because of the body type," Ingram said. "I think anybody would want to be compared to Kevin Durant. He's a little beyond my years, but that also gives me motivation to try to reach my potential."

Ingram's potential remains unclear, though his ceiling is obviously high. There are countless factors that will determine how his career unfolds, most of which are impossible to project.

That said, it appears unlikely from listening to him that Ingram will succumb to the immense pressure associated with his draft selection, taking over the Lakers' franchise player mantle from Bryant orhis similarities to Durant.

"I can only do what I do well," Ingram said. "There is no other Kobe Bryant. So I know coming into this that I just have to be coachable. If I do whatever the coach [wants] and I make him happy, then I'm happy."