Summer 2024

Lonnie Walker IV credits 15-point 4th quarter to 'grace of God and a lot of hard work'

Lonnie Walker IV is on a never-ending quest to become a better version of himself, and he wasn’t going to let an injury or falling out of the Los Angeles Lakers rotation halt that quest.

Walker kept working, kept supporting his teammates. He got just 14 minutes, 50 seconds of total playing time in the Lakers’ first-round series against the Memphis Grizzlies and didn’t play in Game 1 against the Golden State Warriors in the second round.

>> Subscribe to Sports Spectrum Magazine for more stories where sports and faith connect <<

He saw more time in Game 2 (12 minutes) and Game 3 (24:24), and then broke out in 27 minutes Monday night, when he nearly outscored the defending champions by himself in the fourth quarter. Walker didn’t attempt a shot in the first 36 minutes but finished with 15 fourth-quarter points on 6-of-9 shooting. The Lakers outscored Golden State by 10 in the final period (27-17) to claim a 104-101 victory and take a commanding 3-1 series lead.

“The greatest feeling you could ever imagine,” Walker said after the game. “As a kid, this is something I’ve been dreaming of doing. Not just being a part of the playoffs but impacting it.”

Even when he wasn’t playing very much, the fifth-year guard’s belief in himself never wavered.

“I’ve got a lot of confidence in myself,” he said. “I know my value. I know what I’m capable of doing. By the grace of God and a lot of hard work and sacrifices and time in the gym, the fruition kind of came today.”

Walker became the first Lakers player in more than 25 years to come off the bench and score 15 points in the fourth quarter of a playoff game. The last person to do it? Kobe Bryant. The date? May 8, 1997, exactly 26 years ago.

As he became the story of the night in the NBA, Walker made sure to give glory to God. He mentioned his faith multiple times and declared that “God is good, first and foremost” during his interview with “Inside the NBA.”

Drafted 18th overall by the San Antonio Spurs in 2018, Walker signed with the Lakers this past offseason and started 32 games during the regular season. He averaged 11.7 points per game, the second-highest total of his career.

Laker stars LeBron James and Anthony Davis both embraced Walker after his fourth-quarter explosion.

“We don’t win this game tonight without Lonnie Walker, that’s for sure,” James said.

Head coach Darvin Ham also praised Walker for keeping a positive mindset when he wasn’t getting the opportunities he wanted.

“The kid is a beautiful kid,” Ham said. “He fell out of the rotation through no fault of his own, but he remained professional. He remained high-spirited, positive, and really kept working on his game every day, especially in these playoffs. When your mind is in the right place, your body follows.”

Walker views the challenges he’s faced in his career as opportunities for growth that God has placed along his quest for continual improvement.

“[At every single level I’ve encountered] a lot of adversities, if not a lesson that God was trying to teach me. And I think that’s the most important thing, is trying to better yourself every day. … There’s going to be hard times, and that’s just God’s ultimate test to make you learn something in order to get to your goal,” Walker said.

That’s the same mentality Walker had back in 2019, when he was playing in the G League and trying to earn his way into the NBA.

“As long as I have God by my side, I always know it’s going to be OK,” he told the Reading (Penn.) Eagle, his hometown newspaper. “No matter what position I’m in, the end of the road is going to be a success.

“Whether it was being injured at Miami or when we lost junior year in the (state high school) semifinals, I’m always going to be victorious. I know what it takes to get to where I want to be, I’ve just got to be patient and have faith and know that God has my back.”

In the three games Walker’s played in his current series, he is averaging 12.0 points on 60.9% shooting along with 1.7 steals per game. Los Angeles will have a chance to close out the series at the Chase Center on Wednesday night. Tipoff is at 10 p.m. ET.

RELATED STORIES:
New Los Angeles Lakers coach Darvin Ham: God is ‘the Master of all plans’
Joe Mazzulla following ‘God’s plan’ as he coaches Celtics in NBA playoffs
‘Believer’ Steph Curry scores NBA Game 7 record 50 points to advance Golden State
Al Horford believes his ‘purpose in life is to please God’ as Celtics eye Finals return
Michael Porter Jr. back on court with Nuggets, says he finds peace in stability of God