Entertainment Sports Lakers Head Coach Darvin Ham Reveals He Was Shot in Face as a Child: 'It Made Me Fearless' The newly-hired head coach opened up about the "life-changing experience" in 1988 during a press conference on Monday By Natasha Dye Natasha Dye Twitter Natasha Dye is a writer-reporter for PEOPLE Digital covering sports. People Editorial Guidelines Published on June 7, 2022 05:34 PM Share Tweet Pin Email Los Angeles Lakers head coach Darvin Ham speaks to media. Photo: Jevone Moore/AP Images Darvin Ham, the new head coach for the Los Angeles Lakers, opened up about a horrifying childhood incident that he says made him "fearless." During a press conference on Monday, the 48-year-old revealed he was shot in the face as a teenager in 1988. "I grew up in Saginaw, Michigan," he told reporters after being asked about the pressure of coaching the Lakers. "I was shot in the face by accident, April 5, 1988. You go through something like that, it's going to make you one of two things: It's going to make you fearful or fearless." "It made me fearless," the former NBA player said. "I don't feel no pressure. It's basketball." Ham, an assistant coach for the Lakers from 2011 to 2013, says the incident happened when he was 14 years old. "I remember it like it was yesterday," he told NBA.com in 2011, adding that he was in the passenger seat of a car with his brother the day of the incident. Suddenly, the siblings heard "all these pops," Ham recalled. Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories. "I saw a guy just running towards me while three other guys in the parking lot were shooting at him," he said. "As we're getting ready to turn, the guy who is running is shooting backwards behind him, and one of the bullets that missed him hit me. I was one of four or five people who got shot that day." LeBron James Says He Feels Like 'Poop' Amid Lakers Stunningly Disappointing Season: 'I Hate Losing' The bullet became lodged in Ham's neck after hitting him in the jaw. He eventually found out that the shooting resulted from a "drug deal gone bad." Though he testified, the case was declared a mistrial, Ham said. "I could have been dead so easily, without anyone being convicted," he said of the outcome. The NBA's most recent head coaching hire said the incident was a "life-changing experience" that "set a foundation in me to never take anything for granted." "I'm not afraid of failure, or success. I'm only afraid of not being authentic, or sticking to my principles," he added. Russell Westbrook Speaks Out After Wife Reveals Family Sent 'Death Wishes' Over His Performance Ham's mental toughness makes him a promising leader for the Lakers, a team that was ultimately eliminated from the playoffs before the postseason even began despite their roster of stars. Since acquiring Russell Westbrook last summer, the Lakers have struggled to fit him in with fellow stars LeBron James and Anthony Davis. But Ham told reporters he's ready for the challenge. "Russ is one of the best players our league has ever seen, and there's still a lot left in the tank," Ham said during his introductory press conference on Monday. RELATED VIDEO: Stephen Curry Becomes First Player in NBA History to Make 500 Playoff 3-Pointers The biggest question mark surrounding Ham's new team next season is how they'll utilize 33-year-old Westbrook alongside their roster of role players. Ham believes the fit will work, and he's excited to see what he can do with the Lakers squad. "Everyone here knows what he's capable of, I'm excited to work with him," Ham said of Westbrook. The Lakers finished last season with a shockingly disappointing 33-49 record. The Westbrook signing had analysts picking the Southern California team to be a significant contender in the Western Conference. However, after the Lakers were eliminated from playoff contention, the organization parted ways with then-head coach, Frank Vogel. The 48-year-old coached the Lakers team to a championship in 2020.