Lakers: David Nwaba fulfills childhood dream of becoming Laker

LOS ANGELES — David Nwaba was born and raised in Los Angeles. He grew up watching the Kobe-Shaq teams that won three NBA championships with the Lakers in the early 2000s.

As he attended University High School and Cal Poly Pomona-San Luis Obispo, he dreamed of one day playing for his hometown team. But while in college, he knew that would be a long shot.

No one from his school had ever made it to the NBA, so in his mind, he felt playing overseas was his No. 1 option because he didn’t attend a training camp or summer league, Nwaba told me before Tuesday’s game against the Clippers.

Without a sufficient offer from an overseas team, Nwaba decided to try his hand at the NBA Development League, he said. In 31 starts for the LA D-Fenders, Nwaba averaged 14.1 points and 6.9 rebounds per game and shot 64.7 percent from the field in 28.8 minutes, according to basketball-reference.com.

Then on Feb. 28, he got the first call that changed his life — potentially forever: The Lakers on Feb. 28 signed him to his first of two 10-day contracts. Nwaba signed his second one on March 11.

On Tuesday, he signed a multiyear contract that is guaranteed for the rest of this season and has a team option for next season, according to Shams Charania of The Vertical.

“Everything happens for a reason,” Nwaba said.

Lakers General Manager Rob Pelinka had plenty of praise for Nwaba in a news release sent on Tuesday after the signing.

“We have been impressed by David’s focus and determination, especially on defense,” Pelinka said in a statement on lakers.com. “He has a mentality about him that is infectious, and he works hard every day to improve himself. He has brought energy to both our Lakers and D-Fenders games, and has certainly earned his spot on the roster.”

Nwaba not only has the support of the organization but also from his teammates. Lakers forward Larry Nance, Jr., said he was “extremely” happy that Nwaba got a contract from the team.

“I’m a huge proponent of David’s,” Nance said. “I love anybody who plays hard and plays defense. Any time he’s on the court, good things happen. I think he’s an awesome addition, and personally, I’m very happy to have him.”

During his pregame media availability on Tuesday, Lakers head coach Luke Walton said Nwaba fits the culture the team is trying to build.

“He gives us a toughness that we definitely need,” Walton said. “He gives us a defensive mindset that we definitely need. It’s nice to be able to preach something all day, every day in practice and in games and then have a young guy that’s hungry.

“Whether he plays at all in the first three quarters, when he steps on the court, he’s ready to compete, he’s ready to get after it on defense. He knows that’s what’s paying the bills for him right now. So having that type of personality around we just felt was valuable for our young group.”

Nwaba said he felt relieved when he signed the contract, but added that it still felt like he was on a 10-day contract because “every one of these games matter” to his status next season.

But for right now, Nwaba is living his childhood dream, and he couldn’t be happier.

“I’m excited for the opportunity,” Nwaba said. “Even though it didn’t show too much on the stat sheet, they still appreciate what I bring to the table. I’m just glad that they enjoy what I bring and just give me the opportunity to continue to keep showing my skills and just hopefully improve every day.”

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