Say it ain’t so, Lonzo. (Harry How/Getty Images)

For someone still months way from playing in his first NBA game, Lonzo Ball could hardly have been more popular with Lakers fans. A Los Angeles-area high school star who led UCLA to the NCAA tournament as a freshman, Ball’s selection by the Lakers as the draft’s No. 2 overall pick seemed almost preordained, and it had certainly represented an oft-predicted dream come true for his father, LaVar.

Then in Summer League, after a rough start, Ball showed what all the fuss was about, turning in a string of triple-doubles and winning MVP honors in a Las Vegas arena packed full of giddy Lakers fans. Yup, the prized rookie, a local hero, could do no wrong.

Of course, that was before Friday, when a clip began making the rounds that showed Ball doing the unthinkable: picking LeBron James as his favorite player, instead of Kobe Bryant. Uh, oh.

Bryant, of course, is the Lakers’ most beloved player since Magic Johnson, and arguably more revered among fans who missed the latter’s “Showtime” heyday. James, meanwhile, is some guy who, while rumored to be eyeing the Lakers as his next team, is not, and never will be, the equal of the Mamba, at least in the hearts and minds of diehard Lakers fans.

Heck, even Michael Jordan recently asserted that he would place Bryant above James in the all-time ranks, because, as he put it, “There’s something about five that beats three.”

Asked about Jordan’s comments, Ball had this to say: “My favorite player was LeBron growing up, but he does have a point — championships do mean a lot.”

Showing some uncertainty about how to continue with his answer, Ball said, “It’s tough. I’m a Laker.

“I want to go with Kobe, but I’ve been saying LeBron for my whole life, so I’m going to go with LeBron.”

Oh, Lonzo. Things were going so well, but you may not be able to come back from that.

Of course, even though Ball grew up in Los Angeles during the height of Mamba-mania, his pass-first game does resemble that of James’s more than Bryant’s, so it’s understandable that he would gravitate to the Cavaliers/Heat superstar. Also, one would have to think that, should Ball help the Lakers regain their past glory, all will be forgiven and then some.

Speaking of which, you know who else could help bring a title back to Los Angeles? James, that’s who, and as mentioned, the NBA rumor mill is rife with talk that he may join the Lakers in 2018, when he can opt out of his Cleveland contract.

With that in mind, there was some speculation online Friday that Ball was making a very savvy recruiting pitch in choosing James over Bryant. He’d hardly be the first member of this family to have done so, as his outspoken father recently said, “If LeBron wants to win more championships, he’s got to come to L.A. and play with my boy.” Before that, Ball’s youngest brother, LaMelo, posted this tweet:

So, there you have it, Lakers fans: Lonzo Ball picked James over Bryant only because he’s such an unselfish, team-oriented guy that he’s willing to commit heresy to help the franchise return to the top. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

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