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New Lakers coach Darvin Ham was shot in the face when he was only 14

Joshua Rogers June 7, 2022
New Lakers coach Darvin Ham was shot in the face when he was only 14
Photo by David Crane/MediaNews Group/Los Angeles Daily News via Getty Images

At his introductory press conference, new Lakers coach Darvin Ham spoke about the time he was shot in the face. Here’s what we know about the incident.

On Monday (6 June) the Los Angeles Lakers unveiled new head coach Darvin Ham to the world’s media. Ham played in the NBA from 1996 to 2005, and won a championship in 2004 with the Detroit Pistons – beating the Lakers.

After retiring he moved into coaching, where he was an assistant under Mike Brown with the Lakers from 2011 to 2013. More recently, he has worked under Mike Budenholzer with the Atlanta Hawks and Milwaukee Bucks.

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Darvin Ham reveals he was shot in the face as a teenager

Ham was unsurprisingly grilled by the world’s media in his introductory press conference on Monday. At one point, the 48-year-old was asked how he’d handle the pressure at an organisation like the Lakers, to which he responded with a harrowing anecdote.

He revealed how he was once shot in the face, and that ever since then he has no fear, especially when it comes to basketball.

“I grew up in Saginaw, Michigan,” Ham said. “I was shot in the face by accident, 5 April 1988. You go through something like that, it’s going to do one of two things: It’s going to make you fearful or fearless. It made me fearless. I don’t feel no pressure. It’s basketball.”

What we know about the incident

Ham didn’t go into further detail about the incident but fans were understandably curious.

Per NBC Los Angeles, Darvin Ham was shot in the face on 5 April 1988 when he and his brother went out for pizza. Ham grew up in Saginaw, Michigan, during a time when Saginaw, Detroit, and Flint had the highest violent crime rates in the state.

As a 14-year-old, Darvin and his brother left a parking lot to turn on to a street when they heard gunshots and were caught in crossfire. NBC reports Ham remembered a man running towards his car followed by three shooters. Ham accidentally caught a stray bullet and was shot in the jaw, with the bullet lodging in the back of his neck.

Thankfully, doctors were able to remove the bullet and Ham survived.

“I could have been dead so easily,” Ham told NBC in 2011. “It set a foundation in me to never take anything for granted. So I’m not afraid of failure, or success. I’m only afraid of not being authentic.”

It is a sobering reminder that no matter how important we think basketball is, it pales in comparison to the life and death situations people find themselves in on a day-to-day basis.

Lakers fans have been frustrated by the direction of the franchise of late but, under the guidance of Ham, there’s a growing optimism they can get back to where they belong.

Do you think Ham will be a success in LA? Let us know your thoughts about the appointment in the comments below.

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Joshua is a senior sports writer with over four years' experience in online writing. He graduated with a BA in Ancient History from The University of Manchester before receiving an MA in Sports Journalism from The University of Central Lancashire. He became a trending writer for a leading social publisher and later spent time covering the 2018 World Cup for The Mirror Online. He then moved to a social marketing agency where he acted as website editor. His specialties on The Focus include F1, tennis, NBA, NFL and combat sports.