Moritz Wagner: With “Magic Johnson” in the NBA

Berlin basketball player Moritz Wagner was a college star in Michigan. And now he’s on court for the world-famous Los Angeles Lakers.

Moritz Wagner (left) alongside NBA legend “Magic Johnson”
Moritz Wagner (left) alongside NBA legend “Magic Johnson” dpa

For Moritz Wagner, the dream of an NBA career has come true. At the 2018 NBA draft, where the best new amateurs are drafted into the pro teams, the German, who was ranked at no. 25, was picked by the Los Angeles Lakers. So who actually is the promising 2.11-meter-tall forward?

His dream career started with German first league team Alba Berlin. At the age of 17 Wagner was included in the squad of the 8-time German basketball champions for the 2014-15 season. The very next season he moved to the US, where at the University of Michigan “Big Moe”, as his fellow players nicknamed him, caused a real stir. In the space of only three seasons, Moritz Wagner emerged as a veritable star of the college circuit.

Sensation in the college semi-final against Loyola Chicago

In the 2017-18 season he quite simply made history: In the semi-final against Loyola University Chicago he scored 24 points and 15 rebounds. The two last players to chalk up at least 20 points and 15 rebounds in a college semi-final were none other than NBA legends Larry Bird and Hakeem Olajuwon. While the Michigan Wolverines then lost the final, Wagner ended the season on an average of 14.6 points a game, best scorer in his team. And with an average of 7.1 rebounds he also came tops in his team in that category, too.

Wagner’s massive leap into the NBA

Now, at the age of 21, Wagner is taking the huge step up – into the NBA. He’s been signed by the Los Angeles Lakers, one of the most popular clubs, which has also strengthened its ranks by wooing on board superstar LeBron James. Lakers coach Luke Walton is convinced that Wagner is real quality: We liked his skills, his intelligence, and that he played for a really good coach in college. We believe he can be great support for our team from the get-go.”

Wagner is looking forward to the new challenge, but is also clear about what he can expect: “Now I’m a pro, I’m no longer at college. I’ve got to devote all my energy to this job. Compared to college the biggest change will be that we have 82 games. That’s quite a different strain on the body.” And he’s absolutely looking forward to duelling with the Dallas Mavericks and his big role model Dirk Nowitzki. Of whom he says: “There are many great players. Dirk stands that bit above them all. And I look up to him.”

German players in the NBA

Alongside Moritz Wagner and Dirk Nowitzki, in the 2018-19 season there will be four other German players in the NBA. Dennis Schröder has been causing a stir with the Atlanta Hawks since 2013 and Daniel Theis put in a convincing first season with the Boston Celtics. Maximilian Kleber, one of Nowitzki’s teammates in Dallas, and Paul Zipser of the Chicago Bulls are considered young hopefuls in their respective teams. By virtue of the LA Lakers picking him in the draft, Moritz Wagner is the 13th German pro to play in the NBA.