Four years ago we were introduced to the Ball family. A family of three basketball-playing brothers who were some of the most notorious and promising upcoming talents in the country. The oldest, Lonzo, committed to play for UCLA and was a projected lottery pick before he’d even stepped onto the court. The middle son, LiAngelo, wasn’t flashy but was touted as being an NBA role player one day. The youngest, Lamelo, was under his older brother's tutelage and was thought to be even better than Lonzo when the time came.
But it wasn’t the talent of the brothers that brought the Ball family into the spotlight, it was their father Lavar.
Lavar Ball is a businessman even if he isn’t one in the traditional sense. He knew he had a product (his sons) that people would want. He saw an opportunity and he took it as far as it could possibly go.
Getting the Ball Rolling
The Ball family first came into the spotlight in 2015 when Lonzo Ball was finishing his senior year at Chino Hills, California. Lonzo was gaining national attention because of his basketball IQ, passing ability, and scoring ability.
Chino Hills was by no means a basketball powerhouse, but the Ball family helped turn them into one. The basketball team was known for high scoring affairs, little defense, and some extremely talented kids.
Lonzo started as a freshman and made an impact the moment he stepped onto the court. He showed how talented he was by making the All-Sierra First Team and by earning an honorable mention for the MaxPreps’ Freshman All-American team. For comparison, the MaxPreps’ Freshman team included NBA picks Harry Giles, Thon Maker, Jayson Tatum, and Josh Jackson.
By the end of his high school career, Lonzo played in state playoff games every year, won a state title, led Chino Hills to a 35–0 season, and averaged 23.9 points, 11.3 rebounds, and 11.5 assists per game in his senior year. He committed to play basketball at UCLA and was projected to be an NBA lottery pick in the 2017 NBA Draft.
In his freshman year at UCLA, Lonzo averaged 14.6 points, 7.6 assists, and 6 rebounds per game. He ended up being drafted number two overall by the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2017 NBA Draft.
LiAngelo Ball had a much different course than that of his older brother. He had a stellar high school career on paper, but his stats were inflated due to the cherry-picking style of play Chino Hills adapted. In one game in his senior year, LiAngelo scored a career-high 72 points with 13 three-pointers. Unheard of.
He committed to UCLA and it was made known that he would most likely be a reserve on the 2017–18 team. Before LiAngelo’s basketball career ever had a chance to take off he squandered his opportunity by stealing and getting arrested in Hangzhou, China. He was suspended indefinitely from the UCLA program and shortly withdrew himself from the team.
Once he withdrew himself from UCLA, LiAngelo went overseas to play basketball for Prienai of the Lithuanian Basketball League and became one of the most prolific teams in Europe. He was less than recognizable in Europe and averaged a measly 12.6 points and 2.7 rebounds per game.
Knowing he wasn’t good enough to be drafted in the NBA, he returned home after Prienai’s season and played for the Los Angeles Ballers, a team his father started as an alternative for college basketball.
Once again, things didn’t go according to plan and LiAngelo has been bouncing around NBA G League teams ever since.
The youngest brother was gaining higher praises than his brother Lonzo and was projected to be an NBA lottery pick himself. In his freshman year at Chino Hills, LaMelo averaged 16.4 points and 3.8 assists per game while playing alongside his older brothers.
His sophomore season turned out to be his last year at Chino Hills as he followed his brother to Europe by playing for Prienai of the Lithuanian Basketball League. In his last season, he averaged 26.7 points and 9.8 assists per game with one game of 92 points scored. He was described as a cherry-picker and someone who rarely played defense. However, that didn’t stop him from being highly recruited and earning a 5-star recruiting status.
After a season playing for Prienai, LaMelo returned to the US and played for SPIRE Institute and Academy, a prep school. SPIRE faced criticism that season because LaMelo was no longer considered an amateur due to his season in Europe. Many games were canceled because opponents were concerned they may lose eligibility under their state guidelines for amateur sports. The season was tumultuous for LaMelo and he was deemed ineligible for the 2019 McDonald’s All-American Game due to his professional status.
In 2019, he left the US again to play for the Illawarra Hawks of the Australian National Basketball League. Ball earned high praises from numerous league members with his stat line, 17 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 6.8 assists per game. He was named the NBL Rookie of the Year. There were talks that he could be the number one pick in the 2020 NBA Draft but ultimately was drafted third overall by the Charlotte Hornets.
Ball is Life
The family gained national attention and criticism because of the father, Lavar Ball, and his attempt to disrupt the sporting goods industry with Big Baller Brand (BBB). Big Baller Brand was an ode to his three sons and was seen as a supreme money grab.
Lavar pushed his sons to wear BBB apparel while at Chino Hills and at UCLA to promote the brand and gain national recognition as a real player in the market. However, with shoes priced at $495, it turned out that disrupting the shoe market was not in the cards.
The brand took a hit when Lonzo criticized the apparel in the Facebook reality show, Ball in the Family. Shoes were falling apart, clothing wore out quicker than expected, and the goods were just priced too high.
Lavar did his best to continue promoting BBB and his sons by appearing on sports shows and getting into online feuds with celebrities. The boys did their best to distance themselves from their father when it came to business and their career and that turned out to be one the best decisions they’ve made thus far. A father always wants what’s best for his kids, but many continue questioning what Lavar’s motives are and if he’s in it for his sons or for his own glory.
Keep on Ballin
Lonzo and LaMelo will play against each other this NBA season on Friday, January 8 at 7:30 pm. It will be the first time the two brothers have been on the same court since their Chino Hills days. If you feel inclined to watch a Facebook reality show, Ball in the Family is available for your viewing pleasure.
The Ball family’s online presence has somewhat diminished over the past year due to shows no longer giving Lavar airtime, but to say he’s gone quiet would be incorrect. Lavar is still hustling to make a name for himself and his sons and the Ball family will be front and center for years to come.