The 2021-22 Los Angeles Lakers will have many few faces. LeBron James and Anthony Davis will be joined by Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony, and DeAndre Jordan, among others. It’s an older core that should help LA contend for a record 18th NBA championship.
But the changes aren’t just on the roster. Head coach Frank Vogel has had to add some new coaches to his bench in the wake of two top assistants departing. Interestingly, one of those coaches joining Vogel’s staff has a tie to LeBron, albeit for an embarrassing reason.
Frank Vogel is reshaping the Los Angeles Lakers’ coaching staff
Vogel is entering his third season as the Lakers’ head coach. While his first season in LA ended with a championship in the bubble, his second was filled with injuries and a disappointing first-round exit to the Phoenix Suns.
This summer, Vogel saw his two most experienced coaches depart from his staff. Jason Kidd, who joined LA along with Vogel in 2019, became the head coach of the Dallas Mavericks. In addition, Lionel Hollins was not brought back after two years on the Laker bench.
To fill the void, the Lakers officially announced the hires of David Fizdale and John Lucas III. Fizdale, who served as the Miami Heat’s top assistant during LeBron’s “Big 3” era, spent a couple of years as the head coach of the Memphis Grizzlies and New York Knicks. Lucas III is still fairly green in coaching, previously serving as the player development coach for the Minnesota Timberwolves for the last two years.
Both Fizdale and Lucas III have ties to James, but only the latter can say it was for a bad reason.
LeBron James famously jumped over John Lucas III for a dunk
On January 28, 2012, the Heat hosted the Chicago Bulls in a nationally-televised game on ABC. At the time, these were the top two teams in the East, having met the previous year in the conference finals.
Miami jumped out to a 14-7 lead just over halfway through the first quarter. Dwyane Wade had the ball just inside the three-point line and, without moving, threw a lob to James for a monster one-handed dunk. But on the way to retrieve Wade’s pass, James lept over the 5-foot-11 Lucas III, who had his back turned to the King and didn’t realize what transpired until after the play ended.
Miami would go on to win 97-93, with LeBron’s famous dunk responsible for two of his 35 total points. But the biggest story was the dunk, something Lucas III would be reminded of years after.
LeBron’s dunk followed Lucas III years later
Lucas III had a well-traveled career, making six NBA rosters and playing overseas in Italy, Spain, and China. Toward the end of his career in 2015, he was invited to the Heat training camp. Once there, it didn’t take long for the guard to be reminded of his unfortunate claim to fame.
“Ah, man,” Lucas III said when asked about the dunk at Heat Media Day. “I got off the plane yesterday, and somebody was like, ‘Hey, that’s the dude LeBron jumped over!’ When I got off the plane, I was like, ‘Well, welcome to Miami!’ That’s what I said to myself.”
The dunk was so popular in Miami, the Heat even blew up a picture of it near the team’s locker room.
“Hey, it was a hell of a play,” Lucas III said. “I mean, I haven’t watched it in a while, but every time I walk into the locker room — they’ve got the big picture of [James] jumping before you enter into the locker room. So I’m always reminded of what happened here. Juwan Howard pointed it out to me. But, you know, it’s part of the game.”
It will likely be a topic of conversation once Lucas III and James reunite during Lakers training camp. Hopefully, LeBron takes it easy and doesn’t try to recreate the dunk on his new coach.
All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.