As it relates to basketball, Zach LaVine has always said he values the respect of his peers above all.
This year has seen the Chicago Bulls guard make a few milestones in that regard. In March, LaVine finished third in player voting for the Eastern Conference’s All-Star backcourt. In July, he earned a spot on the United States men’s basketball national team roster for the Tokyo Olympics.
Along the way, he’s collected a handful of glowing testimonials from players and coaches alike. The latest comes from fellow All-Star — and Team USA teammate — Bradley Beal, who gushed about LaVine in a 1-on-1 interview with NBC Sports Washington’s Chris Miller.
“Pure talent,” Beal said of LaVine. “He is an underrated guard in our league, all of our peers know that.
“I love going against him too, because we know each other's moves. We know each other's counters and so on."
And indeed, the two prolific scorers have had some battles. In a Feb. 8 bout last season won by the Wizards, each dropped 35 points. Nearly a year to the day prior — on Feb. 11, 2020 — LaVine scored 41 and Beal 30 in a separate Wizards win.
Career years in 2020-21 led each to making their first Olympic roster. Beal finished second in the NBA in scoring, averaging 31.3 points per game, while LaVine averaged 27.4 points on career-best shooting splits from the field and 3-point range.
As for being underrated? LaVine knows that the recognition he’s recently received could go a long way toward kicking that label. And help him achieve his ultimate goal: Winning at the highest level.
“You always want what you feel like you’re deserving of. I think I’m always trying to get judged by my peers, and when you get the respect from your peers that’s what means the most,” LaVine said during a press conference from Team USA’s Las Vegas training camp. “Being here, competing with these guys, going out here and doing this is a big honor.
“Making the All-Star Game, that was great, but I want to be a winner and I think everything will come with winning. And the better I get, the better I make my team, the more accolades you get individually, so all that stuff will come. But I felt good about myself because of the way I played, not because somebody told me I’ve got or I achieved. I know how good I am and I know where I want to be at."