The best coming-of-age stories are full of hardship and challenges. How would we regard the “The Karate Kid” if Daniel LaRusso defeated Bobby or Dutch in the finals of the All-Valley Tournament instead of Cobra Kai alpha Johnny Lawrence? Iron sharpens iron. This cliche is extremely relevant for Indiana Pacers point guard Tyrese Haliburton.
The 23-year-old leads the Pacers into arguably the most buzz-worthy matchup they have played since Game 7 of the first round of the 2017-18 Eastern Conference playoffs. Haliburton has bewildered two powerhouses in the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks en route to reaching the NBA In-Season Tournament Championship.
Now, he must vanquish his childhood sports hero in order to bring the NBA Cup to Gainbridge Fieldhouse. The No. 12 overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft elaborated on what would be the perfect conclusion to his own hero's journey in this tournament.
“Tyrese Haliburton says it’s like a ‘storybook ending' for he and the Pacers to play against LeBron James and the Lakers in the In-Season Tournament title game,” ESPN's Tim Bontemps posted on X. “Said he grew up with LeBron as his favorite player and was a fan of him at every stop before he was drafted.”
Tyrese Haliburton feels like the protagonist of the In-Season Tourney
The Los Angeles Lakers have the clear edge in fan support and star power, but Haliburton has enough shine himself to light up the T-Mobile Arena on Saturday night. Although he earned an All-Star selection last season, the first quarter of the 2023-24 campaign is seeing him morph into an NBA superstar.
The former three-star recruit is averaging nearly 27 points on 52.5 percent shooting (44.1 from 3-point range) and an NBA-leading 12.1 assists per game. He is the architect of one of the most aesthetically-pleasing offenses in the league today and a main reason why the Pacers are competing for the inaugural In-Season Tournament title.
Haliburton will try to write that “storybook ending” in Las Vegas against James and the Los Angeles Lakers, starting at 8:30 p.m. ET. And if he succeeds, no one will forget his name ever again.