Los Angeles Lakers rookie Talen Horton-Tucker won the NBA title trophy during his first year in the league, making history in the process.
The Lakers selected Horton-Tucker as the No. 46 overall pick in the 2019 NBA draft after playing just one year with the Iowa State Cyclones. The wing came into this season as the second-youngest player in the league and the youngest to make the 2020 NBA playoffs.
Horton-Tucker, not even of legal drinking age in the United States, is so young that he says his teammates give him orange juice to sip on while his teammates drink wine.
While he may not be allowed to celebrate with champagne, Horton-Tucker achieved an incredible accomplishment with a series victory over the Miami Heat.
Per our research, Horton-Tucker actually became the second-youngest player to ever win the NBA champion and the youngest who was ever born in the United States. The wing was 19 years old and 321 days old at the date of this accomplishment.
The only player to ever win a title at a younger age than Horton-Tucker was former No. 2 overall pick Darko Miličić, who won with the Detroit Pistons in 2004.
After winning an NBA title, the rookie also surpassed Magic Johnson as the youngest to ever hoist the trophy while wearing the iconic purple and gold.
Johnson, like Horton-Tucker, won his first championship during his first year in the league. But the point guard, who would go on to win four more titles in his career, played one more season in the NCAA than Horton-Tucker did.
A slightly more unique case is found with Andrew Bynum, who remains the youngest to ever play in an NBA game after foregoing college basketball. The big man, however, took until his fourth year in the league before earning the hardware.
Age when they made their first Conference Finals:
LeBron James: 22
Kobe Bryant: 21
Talen Horton-Tucker: 19 pic.twitter.com/IKdTZAdhZp
— (@Original_Gio) September 13, 2020
The late Kobe Bryant, who also became a pro after high school, took until his fourth year in the league to win his first title as well. Bryant, who was 21 years and 301 days old at the time, was almost exactly two years older than Horton-Tucker is now.
Horton-Tucker is an obvious outlier when compared to Johnson, Bynum and Bryant. The latter three were all starters who played pivot roles for their team in their respective title runs.
Even though Horton-Tucker played just 81 minutes in the regular season and only 17 minutes in the title, he has earned the respect of his peers. Here is what Anthony Davis recently told Marc Spears (via The Undefeated):
“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.”
Horton-Tucker averaged 18.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.6 steals per game during his time with the South Bay Lakers in the G League.
Now with a title under his belt, he has experience of what it takes to have the mentality of a champion. Plus, he has the bragging rights over every other player from the United States: no one was able to win the hardware faster than he did – and he did so in a season that was delayed by several months.