Los Angeles Lakers: A look at playoffs hero Lonnie Walker IV who outshone Lebron James and Anthony Davis

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Lebron James, Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson and now… Lonnie Walker IV? Given his playoff heroics, there is a chance of future reverence.

Those celebrities that were caught celebrating the Los Angeles Lakers defeating the Memphis Grizzlies in the NBA Playoffs in the previous round must be on cloud nine after this weekend’s results - all building to the all-important NBA Championship finals, taking place from June 1 2023. 

The Lakers are now only one game away from reaching the Western Conference final, beating their neighbours the Golden State Warriors 104-101 to extend their lead in the best-of-seven series to 3-1.

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While the Lakers, known for their “showtime” style of flashy moves and a Hall of Fame boasting Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant and no doubt Lebron James when his playing career comes to an end, still boasts a who’s who of NBA talent including Anthony Davis, it was a recent acquisition in the offseason that has made all the headlines instead.

Lonnie Walker IV has become a Lakers fan favourite after his heroics in Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals, helping drag the Lakers to victory and nailing all 15 of his points at the clutch in the fourth quarter of the game. "For him to be as young as he is, for him to have that professionalism, to come out and stay ready when his number was called, we don't win this game without Lonnie Walker tonight, that's for sure," LeBron James said on TNT after the win.

So was game four of the Western Conference semifinals a star making performance for Walker IV? Well, he’s no rookie and his short career seems to be informed by a series of moves - so who is Lonnie Walker IV and how did he end up with the Los Angeles Lakers who look to recapture the NBA Championship?

Who is Lonnie Walker IV?

Born on December 14, 1998, in Reading, Pennsylvania, Lonnie Walker IV is the son of Lonnie Walker III - himself a basketball player in college before having to drop out to raise the younger Walker and take on several jobs to keep the family afloat.

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Lonnie Walker III was a single parent, and understood the importance of a good education for his son, leading the elder Walker to implore Lonnie to read. Such was the veracity of Lonnie’s reading habits that in time it became part of his pre-game ritual. 

Lonnie Walker IV #4 of the Los Angeles Lakers looks on during Game Four of the Western Conference Semi-Finals of the 2023 NBA Playoffs against the Golden State Warriors at Crypto.com Arena on May 08, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images)Lonnie Walker IV #4 of the Los Angeles Lakers looks on during Game Four of the Western Conference Semi-Finals of the 2023 NBA Playoffs against the Golden State Warriors at Crypto.com Arena on May 08, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images)
Lonnie Walker IV #4 of the Los Angeles Lakers looks on during Game Four of the Western Conference Semi-Finals of the 2023 NBA Playoffs against the Golden State Warriors at Crypto.com Arena on May 08, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images) | Getty Images

His adolescent years however were fraught, which he only disclosed when asked why he had changed his trademark haircut in 2020 that he was a victim of sexual abuse by other family members. “The real truth as to why I started doing this in early 5th grade, it was a cloaking device for me," Walker wrote in the caption, accompanying a video of him describing his hairstyles over the years on Instagram. "During the summer of my 5th grade year I was around more family. Some [whose] names will be left alone. I was around more.”

"I was sexually harassed, raped, abused. I even got accustomed to it because being at that age, you don't know what is what. I was a gullible, curious kid that didn't know what the real world was. I had a mindset that my hair was something that I could control. My hair was what I can make and create and be mine. And it gave [me] confidence."

That confidence led to declaring for eligibility in the 2018 NBA Draft, where he was selected at the 18th pick in the first round by the San Antonio Spurs. In his rookie season, he played in 17 games, averaging 2.6 points and 1.0 rebounds in 6.9 minutes per game but spent most of his time in the NBA G League, playing for the Austin Spurs.

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It would be in the 2019-2020 season when Walker showed the flashes of brilliance people saw him capable of in college; he played in 61 games for the Spurs, averaging 6.4 points and 2.3 rebounds in 15.6 minutes per game. He showed flashes of potential, including a career-high 28 points in a game against the Houston Rockets.

During the 2020-2021 season, Walker played in 71 games, averaging 11.2 points and 2.6 rebounds in 27.3 minutes per game. 

Lonnie Walker IV #4 of the Los Angeles Lakers drives to the basket on Xavier Tillman #2 of the Memphis Grizzlies during the first half at Crypto.com Arena on March 07, 2023 in Los Angeles, California (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)Lonnie Walker IV #4 of the Los Angeles Lakers drives to the basket on Xavier Tillman #2 of the Memphis Grizzlies during the first half at Crypto.com Arena on March 07, 2023 in Los Angeles, California (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Lonnie Walker IV #4 of the Los Angeles Lakers drives to the basket on Xavier Tillman #2 of the Memphis Grizzlies during the first half at Crypto.com Arena on March 07, 2023 in Los Angeles, California (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) | Getty Images

Establishing himself as a key contributor off the bench for the Spurs, with several impressive performances throughout the 2021-2022 NBA season, Walker was picked up by the Los Angeles Lakers during the 2022-2023 off-season, signing a one year contract worth $6.5 million USD.

Though he played the Lakers first 32 games of the season, tendinitis and the acquisition of several other names before the trade deadline (the NBA equivalent of the transfer deadline) led to a decrease in playing time, despite being the fourth most prolific scorer for the team.

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That all changed in the postseason and the NBA Western Conference playoffs; after playing short of 28 minutes through the first eight games of the 2023 playoffs, Walker returned to the rotation and played 25 minutes and scored 12 points in a 127–97 win over Golden State, giving the Lakers a 2–1 series lead in the conference semifinals and then his efforts this morning in Game 4 of the playoffs. 

Though his personal life is not a matter of public record as much as some other NBA players, what is known is that he does have a dog named Zola, who was featured as part of a marketing campaign by PETA over the dangers of leaving dogs in hot vehicles. For those wondering also if they have a shot with Walker IV, we have some bad news for you; he’s been seeing his partner Emily Miller for the last five years, who alongside Adam Sandler, Kim Kardashian and Jack Nicholson, has continuously been in attendance at Walker’s home games cheering him on. 

Much like Linsanity that swept New York during the blow-up of Jeremy Lin in 2011-2012, will Lonnie-mania be sweeping the West Coast this year in the event of a successful playoff run?

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