Freeze: Why the Lakers 3-Point Celebration Isn’t What You Think

Dennis Schroeder Jr., 4 year old son Lakers quarterbackentered the team’s locker room in Los Angeles shortly after his father’s team defeated the defending champion Golden State Warriors.

“Junior”, LeBron James said from his stall, and soon the boy was dressing up James and Anthony Davis.

It was a special moment for Schroeder, the player who re-signed with Lakers to a minimum contract, due in part to a backlog from the Lakers’ failed title defense in 2021. Now his eldest child shared smiles with two future Hall of Famers, including All-time leading scorer in NBA history.

“You don’t take it for granted,” Schroeder later told The Times.

Before Junior left the room, there was one more thing left to do, one more moment to cement that the Lakers were going hand in hand in a way that was unimaginable earlier this season.

Freeze, Schroeder told his son.

Lakers defenseman Austin Reeves celebrates victory. "to freeze" posture after a three-point shot.

Lakers defenseman Austin Reeves celebrates a three-point shot against the Warriors from the freeze pose.

(Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times)

And without hesitation, the 4-year-old extended one arm, palm up in the air as he pointed to his bicep, the Lakers’ unofficial turn celebration eliciting big laughter from James and Davis.

It’s at times like this when the Lakers’ chemistry is in full swing that the team is optimistic that their 2-0 lead over Denver in the Western Conference Finals is a mountain they can climb starting in the third games on Saturday.

“All the good teams you see seem to have something in them, right?” Davis told The Times between games 1 and 2 in Denver. “… It just shows the cohesiveness of our team and how together we are as a group.”

The first thing you need to know about the Lakers’ three-point celebration is that it’s not what you think it is.

When D’Angelo Russell pointed to his left forearm while scoring 39 in 2016, he uttered the words “ice in my veins.” So when the team started doing something similar shortly after Los Angeles re-acquired Russell at the trade deadline, people assumed it had something to do with him.

This is wrong.

No, the Lakers ritual of celebration originates at the start of the season in team card games. Credit goes to former NBA guard Damon Jones, a team employee who works with James before the game, according to Schroeder.

When Jones won a hand, he would show his cards and say “Stop!” – as in “Stop, Miami Vice!”

“Crockett and Tubbs,” Davis said with a laugh.

Jokingly, Schroeder said he would do “Freeze!” as a celebration of the next Lakers game. This game just had a 25-point victory in Portland, and sure enough, if you watch the video, Schroeder looks at the Lakers bench and extends his arm slightly, as if showing his badge.

“Nobody move,” Schroeder said with a laugh, remembering the origin. “…I just brought it in and every time I did a three, I just said “Stop”. And then Bron agreed with it, because once he played cards with Jones, and everyone just did it.

James, Davis, Russell, Austin Reeves – the celebration has become the hallmark of the team whenever someone hits the big three.

“I just watched a clip, one of the Warriors games, and I don’t remember who filmed it, but someone had a three in the air, maybe it was a three. [Schroder] hit to start Game 6 as he stared at the bench,” Reeves said. “If you look at the background in the crowd, you will see three such people. [does the freeze]. The takeoff of it, the chemistry, what was so small and started out as a joke, now it’s kind of taken over by everyone.”

It’s as good a symbol as any to explain just how dramatic the Lakers’ turnaround has been this season. Before the trade deadline, team chemistry was harder to come by, especially on the court, where the team continued to flounder after a poor 2021–22 season.

“We couldn’t figure it out,” Davis said.

Lakers forward Anthony Davis "to freeze" mark after making a three-pointer against the Grizzlies.

Lakers forward Anthony Davis gives a stop sign after hitting a three-pointer against the Grizzlies during a playoff game.

(Luis Cinco/Los Angeles Times)

The roster reorganization at the trade deadline was followed by the Lakers’ best basketball of the season, which opened up the opportunity for the team to fully rally.

“There used to be good energy, but now it’s more togetherness off the field and on the court,” Schroeder told The Times ahead of Game 1 of the West Final. “Everyone is happier. When you win, of course, it’s easier. Everyone is happier, everyone plays right, so everyone eats. So the chemistry is now, of course, better than before. Things like The Freeze all do it, the chemistry plays a role.”

Reeves said he never celebrated three points.

“No. My parents told me that if I did something they would get mad at me after the game,” he said. “I just had to get back to the other end and play defense. They should be [OK with this]. It doesn’t change.”

The Freeze reached its zenith in the Lakers’ win over the Minnesota in a playoff game when Schroeder scored the third corner; he and James celebrated the same way. The photo is saved on Schroeder’s phone, and his driver even made T-shirts with the picture.

“This is a fiery moment,” Schroeder said.

Now, when fans stop him for photos, they regularly ask Schroeder to pose.

Even if this playoff series ends sooner than the Lakers want, their celebration has erupted in the most meaningful way.

When Dennis Jr. did it in the Lakers locker room after Game 6, it wasn’t some new trick. At the Shredder’s house, whenever Junior rolls his mini ring, he will extend his hand and show a badge – “Stop! Miami Vice” is passed down from one generation of hooper to his son.

“That’s the culture now,” Schroeder said, his smile full of pride.

If the Lakers can close a 2-0 lead over the Nuggets, the Freeze should surely be part of that. The Lakers have only shot 33.3 percent of three this postseason, which is far worse of the three remaining teams.

Reeves made 10 triples in two games in Denver while the rest of the team only scored nine in total. James was the coldest, missing all 10 of his attempts in the Conference Finals.

But the Lakers don’t need to make a lot of them—only the most important ones. And if they do, you can bet how they celebrate.

“There’s enough stress as it is,” Davis said. “When you have great off-court chemistry and it transfers to the floor, that’s where good teams thrive. And I think that’s the main reason we’re in the position we’re in right now.”