Scotty Pippen Jr. couldn't have asked for a better mentor in his father, NBA legend Scottie Pippen. But the 21-year-old knows that entering the league as the son of a great comes with higher expectations.
"Having a father in the NBA definitely puts a target on your back," Scotty Jr. tells PEOPLE. "So, I think just being able to endure all that and finally say 'I made it,' is a good feeling."
Scotty Jr. is making is NBA debut this season on a two-way contract for the Los Angeles Lakers and their G-League affiliate team.
"I would say there are higher expectations because people expect me to be like my dad, but I don't really let that get to me because that's just what people think I should be or should not be."
Stephanie Noritz Scotty Pippen Jr. and Scottie Pippen
That urgency to succeed was already there for him, Scotty Jr. says, regardless of who his dad is, because "I think every basketball player feels pressure."
"When you're in high school, you feel pressure to make it to college, then you're in college, you feel pressure to make it to the NBA." Instead, Scotty Jr. says his greatest pressure comes from his own dreams as a player. "I feel like I put pressure on myself to be the best version of myself."
The best version of Scotty Jr., his dad says, happens when he's playing with confidence. Scottie says he can't remember a time he hadn't encouraged his son to play basketball. "He had a ball like that probably since he was born. As a father, the ball was around him," says Scottie.
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But the six-time NBA champion always wanted his son to develop his own identity on the court. "I try to talk it through him his whole life, so just teaching him the game and making him feel like that's the path you on."
On top of his father's legacy, Scotty Jr. will make his debut in the league with more eyes on him than most. In addition to comparisons to his father's career, he'll be playing for the NBA's most talked-about team.
"It's the most historic franchise in the NBA, so being able to go play for the Lakers, especially a team that's where I live now, it's a home for me," Scotty Jr. says.
"It's a dream come true," he says as he prepares to play alongside veteran superstars like LeBron James and Russell Westbrook this season. And although he grew up around the greatest players in the game, life in the league is still a bit surreal to him. "It's still a crazy feeling just going to the gym and just seeing people that I was around when I used to go to the gym with my dad."
"It's still a crazy feeling. I'm still not used to it yet."
Scotty Jr. says James, 37, has already been a valuable mentor to him this summer, reminding him to keep his head down and "focus on basketball."
"[LeBron] told me that I've been around the game even if I don't feel like I have, that my dad's put me through this and that, 'You have an advantage over these guys, so at the end of the day just focus on basketball but make sure your family's good, but at the end of the day, you're the only one on the court, so make sure you find something that brings you peace,' " Scottie Jr. shares.
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His dad, however, thinks the game of basketball has changed too much since his time in the league for him to offer much advice. "I just watch the game now, I mean, I think he's over me in the terms that the game is different now," says Scotty. "Ain't much I can say other than maybe sometime in college, I would maybe tell him, be more aggressive, start the game, try to keep him in it, but I don't really try to guide him on the court."
Now, Scotty Jr. says he most admires Portland Trailblazers star Damian Lillard. "I like how he moves, on and off the court. He's very quiet, he's humble, but he's still a killer on the court. I would say that's my favorite player."
Groomer: Juanita Lyon/Celestine; Scotty Wardrobe: John Elliott