ROB PELINKA, THE new general manager of the Los Angeles Lakers, spends his days working with basketball’s elite, charting a course to restore one of the NBA’s most storied franchises to its former glory—and fans will see him in action during the season home opener against the Clippers this month. But Pelinka’s favorite facet of the sport occurs in the driveway of his Newport Beach home, where he takes on his 10-year-old son or 8-year-old daughter in a game of one-on-one. “There’s nothing better than that time with my kids,” says Pelinka, whose pediatrician wife, Kristin, grew up in Newport. “When I walk through the door after a long day, and they run into my open arms with huge smiles—that’s a magical moment that reminds me what it’s really all about.”
It may be a while before the kids beat Dad, who once sank 46 consecutive free throws in high school and went on to a solid career at the University of Michigan. After graduation, he turned down offers to play overseas in order to attend law school in Ann Arbor. A short stint as an attorney led to Pelinka becoming a sports agent. And over the next two decades, he represented many NBA stars, most notably fellow Newport Beach resident Kobe Bryant.
Earlier this year, Pelinka was named GM of the Lakers in a management shake-up that included elevating Magic Johnson to president of the team’s basketball operations. “[Johnson] inspires all of us every day with his contagious joy and commitment to excellence,” says Pelinka. “He likes to cast the plan for the big picture. And then I get to go implement it.”
That requires a relentless work schedule. But he gets plenty of support around his adopted hometown. “Whether I am grabbing a coffee in the morning in CdM, or I am at one of my daughter’s local soccer games, whenever I meet Lakers fans, they are just so passionate and excited for the future.” It’s a future that Pelinka predicts will be great. “Magic, Coach [Luke] Walton and I are hesitant to commit to a certain number of wins or the playoffs or anything like that [this year],” he says. “But what we will commit to is being on a road of excellence and on a pathway toward a championship.”