Normal cell counterparts of solid and myeloid tumors accumulate mutations years before disease onset; whether this occurs in B lymphocytes before lymphoma remains uncertain. We sequenced multiple stages of the B lineage in elderly individuals and patients with lymphoplasmacytic lymphoma, a singular disease for studying lymphomagenesis because of the high prevalence of mutated MYD88. We observed similar accumulation of random mutations in B lineages from both cohorts and unexpectedly found MYD88L265P in normal precursor and mature B lymphocytes from patients with lymphoma. We uncovered genetic and transcriptional pathways driving malignant transformation and leveraged these to model lymphoplasmacytic lymphoma in mice, based on mutated MYD88 in B cell precursors and BCL2 overexpression. Thus, MYD88L265P is a preneoplastic event, which challenges the current understanding of lymphomagenesis and may have implications for early detection of B cell lymphomas.