The LA Lakers won their 17th overall championship in 2020, defeating the Miami Heat. Coming into the 2020 season, the Lakers were determined to bring a title back to LA, and they had the players to do so.
Many players on the Lakers team won their first title, including rookie Talen Horton-Tucker. After winning a title with the Lakers, Tucker made NBA history.
Talen Horton-Tucker spent one year at Iowa State
Horton-Tucker was a four-star recruit in high school, according to ESPN. He attended Simeon High School in Chicago, Illinois, where he led his team to three consecutive city championships. Horton-Tucker decided to commit to Iowa State University over schools like Illinois and Xavier. At Iowa State, he made an impact on the team. During his freshman year, he played in 35 games and started in 34 of them.
He was the fourth-youngest player in Division I basketball during his freshman year. Horton-Tucker averaged 11.8 points, which was second among Big 12 freshmen. He also averaged 4.9 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 1.3 steals. As a freshman, Horton-Tucker was a top player on the Iowa State basketball team. He became the second freshman in the basketball program to have 400 points-150 rebounds-75 assists in a single season.
Horton-Tucker was named to the Big 12 All-Freshman team, and he was an All Big-12 Honorable Mention selection. After spending one season at Iowa State, Horton-Tucker decided to declare for the NBA draft.
Talen Horton-Tucker starting his NBA career after leaving Iowa State
The Orlando Magic drafted Horton-Tucker in the second round of the 2019 draft. On the night of the draft, he was traded to the Lakers. After signing with the Lakers in July of 2019, he was assigned the Lakers’ NBA G League affiliate, the South Bay Lakers. During his time in the G League, he averaged 18.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, 4.0 assists, and 1.6 steals. He made his NBA debut against the Minnesota Timberwolves on December 8, 2019. Horton-Tucker remained on the Lakers team throughout the NBA bubble.
He scored nine points in 10 minutes off the bench in Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals. Though he didn’t receive much playing time, Horton-Tucker made the most of his minutes on the court. He appeared in six games during the regular season, making one start, and averaged 5.7 points. In the playoffs, he appeared in two games and seven points.
Talen Horton-Tucker became the second-youngest player to win a championship
Not too many rookies have a chance to play on a team that competes for an NBA title. But Horton-Tucker got that opportunity. After the Lakers defeated the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals, Horton-Tucker became the youngest Laker to win a title. According to Hoops Hype, he also became the second-youngest player to win an NBA title. He was 19 years old and 321 days when the Lakers won the title.
Darko Milicic is the youngest player to win a title when he was a member of the Detroit Pistons team that won it all in 2004. Horton-Tucker is the youngest American player to win a title, and even though he couldn’t celebrate with champagne when the Lakers won, he still enjoyed the moment and soaked it all in. He’s received a lot of respect from his fellow teammates as well. Anthony Davis spoke on the kind of player Horton-Tucker is.
“He comes in and he’s not afraid of the moment. He wants to defend. He wants to learn. He wants to get better. He’s in the gym all the time. He’s a great rookie. He’s going to have a great career in this league,” Davis told Marc Spears of The Undefeated. Horton-Tucker’s career is off to a great start as he’s already an NBA champion in his first year. Be on the lookout for Horton-Tucker in the future as he looks to become a top player in the league.
All stats courtesy of Basketball Reference