LOS ANGELES – One of the most memorable moments in Los Angeles Lakers history took place in 1980 when a rookie by the name of Magic Johnson gave an absolute herculean effort on the National Basketball Association’s grandest stage to lead the Lakers to the NBA title.
Johnson famously played every position on the court, but primarily center for the injured Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, in Philadelphia, and he scored 42 points to help the Lakers defeat the 76ers for their first championship since 1972.
Twenty-nine years later and a rookie bull rider will be attempting to make his own magic in a different arena on the opposite side of the country where the Lakers call home today.
There are nine rookie bull riders – Cody Jesus, Lucas Divino, Alisson de Souza, Cannon Cravens, Danilo Carlos Sobrinho, Alan de Souza, Ezekiel Mitchell, Mason Taylor and Taylor Toves – in contention for the Iron Cowboy, presented by Ariat, championship Saturday night at STAPLES Center.
The nine riders make up 36 percent of the 25 riders that advanced out of Round 1 on Friday night.
No rookie has ever won Iron Cowboy during the event’s nine-year run in Arlington, Texas, and so far only one rookie has won a PBR Major event in 16 attempts. (Kaique Pacheco won the Music City Knockout as a rookie in 2015).
Cravens took the Round 1 victory on Friday night by riding Heartless for 87.25 points away from his hand.
“It’s on my mind,” Cravens said. “I ain’t never thought about working out in my life and I have been in the gym all week. I feel way better than I did. I am ready to roll. I’ve been lifting weights, running, sit-ups, pulls, everything.”
Cravens said 2017 World Champion Jess Lockwood encouraged him to put a little more effort into the spot away from the arena.
“Jess told me it is a good idea,” Cravens said. “He said all that talent you got and you are putting no effort into it.”
Lockwood congratulated Cravens when he walked past the RidePass broadcast booth.
Alan de Souza (86.25 points on Dynamite Cap) and Mitchell (84.75 points on Gangster Love) were the next two rookies in the Round 1 results.
“In Los Angeles, winning this event would be insane,” Mitchell said. “As long as I have followed the sport, I have known about the Iron Cowboy. Growing up, I got on a lot of bulls all the time, and I was like if I ever get to an event this suits me the most. Ride the most bulls and you win. It would verify what I thought as a kid. I am excited to be here and take it one bull at a time.”
So far only Jesus, Divino and Souza are listed as a rookies by the PBR competition department because they are the only three rookie-eligible riders that have earned a seeded spot on tour, but the other six riders could all become ROY eligible with a victory this weekend.
Jesus and Souza advanced to Round 2 via their world ranking seeing as there were only 18 qualified rides in Round 1.
The official ground rules for Iron Cowboy state there has to be 25 riders at the start of Round 2.
Fans can watch Round 2 of the Iron Cowboy Saturday night on CBS Sports Network at 10:30 p.m. ET. RidePass will also have coverage beginning at 9:45 p.m. ET.
Riders have to reach the 8-second mark to advance in the competition.
Iron Cowboy is a minimum of two rounds and a maximum of five.
If all riders buck off in Rounds 2, 3 or 4, all riders that attempted a bull advance to the next round.
If there is more than one ride in the final round (Round 5), then the Iron Cowboy will be the rider with the highest ride score in Round 5. If there are no rides in Round 5, then the Iron Cowboy will be the rider with the most round points that had competed in Round 5.
One rider can win a minimum of $100,000 and potentially 1,250 points toward the world standings.
Jesus holds a 183.33-point lead on Souza in the early Rookie of the Year race.
Neither rider cracked the Top 30 last year, which is why they are still eligible for the 2019 Rookie of the Year title.
“My goal is still set on being a World Champion,” Jesus, who is ranked No. 7 in the world, said. “If I am crowned World Champion, then Rookie of the Year will take care of itself. We’re just going to keep trying to stay on all my bulls and stay as humble as I can.”
This is the PBR’s first event in downtown Los Angeles, and the stakes are certainly higher than normal with the PBR Major being held in Hollywood.
Jesus said he can sense the added intensity, but at the end of the day he has to remember the advice two-time World Champion J.B. Mauney gave him last year at the 2018 PBR World Finals.
“Guys are a little more motivated,” Jesus said. “Me, I’m just simple. I try to keep it as simple as I can. J.B. (Mauney) really helped me with it at the World Finals. He said, ‘Don’t think. Keep it simple,’ and every time I see him he says, ‘Keep it simple.’
“It’s just bull riding. It’s only 8 seconds. That’s how my mindset’s been the last couple of events.”