Bynum Gives Reality TV a Whole New Concept


It makes sense for a guy who spends so much time watching television. The best way for Andrew Bynum to express the major shift in his life from high school senior to professional basketball player is in terms of the NBA’s satellite and cable TV package.

“I had League Pass before,” the Lakers’ first-round draft pick said. “Now I’m going to be in League Pass.”

That doesn’t mean Bynum’s life would make for a good reality show right now, unless your idea of compelling drama is watching a 17-year-old work out, walk to his room at the hotel next door to the Lakers’ practice facility in El Segundo and ride a shuttle bus to the movies or the mall.

That was pretty much his routine this summer. He didn’t hit the L.A. hot spots with his teammates because, as he said, “The places they go I still can’t go yet.” In other words, his summer sounded a lot like yours or mine might have at 17 -- play ball, watch TV.


That doesn’t mean Bynum’s hours in front of the tube are wasted. He loves watching NBA TV, including the classic games. Though his friends might think the history of big men begins with Shaquille O’Neal and ends with Tim Duncan, Bynum can appreciate the old-school centers -- including his new mentor, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

“I knew he was an unstoppable player and he leads the league in scoring, so he must be pretty damn good,” Bynum said.

It doesn’t seem to matter that Abdul-Jabbar was born 40 years before Bynum, or that he played his final game when Bynum was 1. They’ve found a way to connect intellectually, Abdul-Jabbar says, and it has been easy for them to work together since the Lakers hired their former center as a special assistant coach last month.

“His attitude is night and day from so many of the kids coming into the league,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “He understands that he has work to do and has a great work ethic.”

At first, Bynum was afraid to bang bodies with a legend. But now he’s surprised and appreciative of the 58-year-old Abdul-Jabbar’s ability to work with him on the court.

“Since he can still play a little bit, he’ll actually show you exactly what he means and how to do it,” Bynum said.


A little bit? It’s a measure of the affinity Abdul-Jabbar must have for his pupil that he lets a kid who is exactly 38,387 points behind him get away with such a remark -- and even adds to it.

“Very little,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “Emphasis on the little.”

He’s teaching Bynum the art of the sky hook. Bynum’s footwork is there, now it’s a matter of putting more arc into the shot.

“He’s shooting a low line drive,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “We’ll get over that. He’s a quick learner. And he’s eager. He’s going to get there.”

There’s a lot of optimism about Bynum in Lakerland. Assistant coach Kurt Rambis already can see the development in Bynum’s body and the improvements in his game since he played his first summer league game in July. Luke Walton was impressed after playing a few pickup games with him in recent weeks.

“I can see why they drafted this guy,” Walton said. “His body is ridiculous, his arms. His footwork is already nice. I think he’s going to be a force in this league once he gets to learn what the league’s about.”

Still, Walton can’t get over how much is coming at Bynum so early.

“When I was 17, I was still in high school,” said Walton, now 25 and starting his third NBA season. “Wake up at my parents’ house. No real decisions to be made. Just go out, having fun, going to school and playing basketball.


“It’s got to be pretty crazy for a 17-year-old kid, especially you get thrown in the middle of Los Angeles and the Lakers. It was crazy for me, and I was a fifth-year senior coming out of college.”

For most young players in the league, reality slaps them with the first elbow to the mouth, the first injury and, almost inevitably, the first trade. Bynum enters the NBA humbled, his NBA career knocked into perspective by the force of Hurricane Katrina.

“You see what you have, it isn’t invincible,” Bynum said. “People go into this like, ‘Oh, I’m an NBA player. I’m the best. Nothing can happen to me.’ But even the guys who got drafted to the New Orleans Hornets, that’s a real unfortunate situation for them. It’s like, ‘OK, do I buy a house here? Do I buy a house in Oklahoma?’ They have so many new variables in the equation. What are they going to do?”

Bynum donated $5,000 toward the hurricane relief efforts and will give $50 for every dunk he gets at Staples Center this season.

“When you have an opportunity to help those in need, that’s what you’re obligated to do,” Bynum said.

So the transition begins, from dependent to provider. His mother and brother are moving in with him, but Bynum will pay for the house near Loyola Marymount (his move-in last week was delayed to expand the doors for his 7-foot body).


Bynum seems to understand exactly where he is, and never tries to skip steps. He knows he won’t make a big impact for a while, and recognizes he hasn’t even started the journey.

“It won’t feel real to me until I hit the Staples Center and see all those fans,” Bynum said. “That’s when I know it will be real. Right now, it’s like, I’m in the Lakers’ practice facility and all that [but] I still can’t believe I’m in the NBA yet.”

And there’s still a major milestone to come before the season starts -- his 18th birthday, Oct. 27.

J.A. Adande can be reached at To read previous columns by Adande, go to