When James was asked about how to become the leader of a team, James said,"It's established by experience, knowledge of the game, what you've done in your career ... that's why we have rookies and veterans, and that's just been from the first day of time."
Lakers coach Luke Walton has repeatedly called James the "best closer in the game" and the team's clear No. 1 option.
But as James rehabs an injury that has him sidelined indefinitely, the question is
Who is the Lakers' best second option?
It's not fair if we say the so-called Baby Lakers don't have grown-up goals of their own as individuals.
"I like to think to the highest, highest. I don't think it's unrealistic," Ingram said. "I would say my career, career goal would be the best player in this league one day."
"I mean, I always put the team first," Ball said. "So championships are the first thing that comes to my mind. Other than that, All-Stars, MVPs, everybody wants to be the best."
"That comes with being a great player," Kuzma said. "Great players lead winning teams. They lead teams that win, whether that's down the stretch in big games at crunch time, 10 seconds [left], whatever."
Ball and Ingram have scored 20 or more with James in the lineup only five times combined (once for Ball, four times for Ingram).
Points scored is less representative of Ball's and Ingram's contributions than it is for Kuzma, but it is clear that overlapping skill sets with James is causing more time to develop a lasting fit.
With James dominating the ball at point forward, averaging 7.1 assists, Ingram's average has decreased from 3.9 assists a season ago to 2.5 this season. Ball's assists have also gone down, from 7.2 to 5 per game in subsequent seasons.
Of the Lakers' young three, Kuzma has enjoyed the most benefit playing next to James. His stretch-4 skillsand instinct to cut and find open seams off the ball have already translated to 15 20-plus-point games (including two 30-plus-point efforts) in 34 games alongside James.
Irving was entering his fourth season and already a two-time All-Star when James returned to Cleveland.
Ingram, for his part, is in his third season, and Kuzma, Ball and Hart are all second-year players. And while the Lakers' youngsters are regarded as promising, none is perceived to have Irving's ceiling.