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LaMelo LaFrance Ball (born August 22, 2001) is an American professional basketball player for SPIRE Institute in Geneva, Ohio. A 17-year-old point guard, he verbally committed to play college basketball for the UCLA Bruins at age 13 but later dropped his college plans to pursue a professional career. Ball played for Chino Hills High School in Chino Hills, California, gaining national exposure in 2015–16 while playing with his brothers: Lonzo, a guard for the Los Angeles Lakers and LiAngelo. His father LaVar grew into a media personality in 2017.
In his first season at Chino Hills, Ball won a state championship and was recognized as one of the top freshmen in the country. As a sophomore, he made headlines after making a half-court shot in December 2016 and returned to prominence following a 92-point game vs. Los Osos High School in February 2017. Throughout his high school years, he was ranked among the top players in his class. In 2017, Ball left Chino Hills after his junior year to sign with Lithuanian team Prienai. In the summer of 2018, he joined the Los Angeles Ballers in the Junior Basketball Association (JBA), before moving to SPIRE.
Ball has over 3.9 million followers on Instagram. He is one of the most publicized high school-aged basketball players, with a signature shoe by his father's company Big Baller Brand and a role on the Facebook Watch reality show Ball in the Family.
Ball was born to LaVar and Tina Ball, who are both former college basketball players. LaVar, who stands 6-foot-4 (1.98 m), competed with Washington State and then Cal State Los Angeles. Tina, who stands 6-feet (1.8 m), also played with the latter school. Later on, LaVar played professional American football as a tight end for the London Monarchs of the World League of American Football after being loaned from the New York Jets.
— LaVar Ball on his sons' early experience playing basketball
LaMelo began playing basketball at age four with his brothers Lonzo and LiAngelo. Growing up, the trio played on teams coached by their father, including Big Ballers VXT of the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU), where they would continue playing into high school. During his childhood, LaMelo mainly played against opponents several years older than him. In a high school summer league game, facing players of ages 16 and 17, he scored 29 points. USA Today High School Sports compared Ball's ability to "dominate" older competition as reminiscent of LeBron James. By age 13, he stood 5-foot-7 (1.7 m).
Ball verbally committed to play college basketball for UCLA at the age of 13, before starting high school, becoming the third of his brothers to do so. LaMelo, who was also recruited by Virginia and Washington State at the time, said that UCLA was his "dream school."
High school career
In June 2015, Ball joined Chino Hills High School in Chino Hills, California, where he would play basketball under head coach Steve Baik. Also on the team, nicknamed the Huskies, were his brothers, as well as cousin Andre Ball. In his debut on June 16, LaMelo scored 27 points with five three-pointers as a starter against John Muir High School. On June 27, Ball recorded 20 points vs. Centennial High School. On November 30, Ball scored 20 points in a 131–42 win over San Bernardino High School.
In March 2016, Chino Hills won the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) Southern Section Open Division championship against Sierra Canyon School, with Ball scoring 26 points and shooting 11-for-17 from the field. Later that month, the Huskies qualified for the state championship as the top ranked team in the nation. On March 27, Ball had 14 points and five assists to propel Chino Hills to the title victory over De La Salle High School. The team closed the season with a perfect 35–0 record. MaxPreps.com named Ball, along with teammate Onyeka Okongwu, Co-Freshman of the Year. Ball, who averaged 16.4 points and 3.8 assists, additionally made the MaxPreps Boys' Basketball Freshman All-American First Team.
For LaMelo's sophomore season, Chino Hills lost top player Lonzo Ball and coach Steve Baik. On November 30, 2016, LaMelo recorded 31 points against Rancho Christian High School while LiAngelo scored 72. By December, LaMelo was averaging more than 30 points per game for the Huskies. In late December, Ball made a half-court shot only a few seconds into a game. The shot received widespread media coverage, including from ESPN, CBS Sports, and Sports Illustrated. Stephen Curry commented on the shot, saying, "That was some confidence right there. The fact that he made it, I wonder if he's done it before and missed it. It's the highlight-driven generation, so that right there was pretty unbelievable, though. For him to call his shot like Babe Ruth and knock it down and act like nothing happened." On January 10, 2017, Ball scored a team-high 35 points, leading Chino Hills to its 52nd straight win. Ball lost his first high school game on February 5, when Oak Hill Academy ended the Huskies' 60-game winning streak.
Top Scoring Games Since 2000
|Cedrick Hensley||Heritage Christian (TX)||2001||101|
|Tigran Grigorian||Mesrobian (CA)||2003||100|
|Dajuan Wagner||Camden (NJ)||2001||100|
|LaMelo Ball||Chino Hills (CA)||2017||92|
|Henry Uhegwu||Gulf Shores (TX)||2002||92|
In his next game on February 7, Ball drew national news coverage after scoring 92 points in a 146–123 victory over Los Osos High School, while LiAngelo was sidelined with an ankle injury. LaMelo recorded 63 points in the second half alone, and he made 37 of 61 shots in the entire game. It was the second best scoring performance in California high school basketball history. Ball was criticized for cherry picking, as he often waited near half court to get an open shot on his next possession instead of trying to prevent the opponent from scoring. Charles Barkley said, "The kid waited at the other end of the court and just every time the other team shot the ball. They just threw to him at half-court or three-quarters of the court. I have a serious problem with that, to be honest with you." Ball used the game to draw attention towards Chino Hills student Alexis Anderson, who was diagnosed with a rare heart condition.
In late July 2017, Ball participated with his AAU team, Big Ballers Brand, at the Adidas Summer Championships at Cashman Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. He led the event in scoring, posting over 35 points in back-to-back games. On July 27, Ball starred in a highly anticipated AAU game vs. Zion Williamson and SC Supreme. Although LaMelo scored 31 points, SC Supreme emerged victorious, behind Williamson's 28 points. According to Adidas, up to 4,000 people, including Andrew Wiggins, Damian Lillard, and multiple other NBA players, were in attendance. LeBron James reportedly planned on sitting courtside for the game but turned away for security reasons. A live stream from Ballislife.com received about 822,000 views. The game was extensively covered by the media, with an ESPN feature story calling Big Ballers Brand's AAU campaign "The LaVar Ball show."
Before his junior season for Chino Hills in 2017–18, the team hired Dennis Latimore as its new head coach. Shortly after, LaVar Ball expressed his disapproval, saying, "There's about to be new drama. I don't like him one bit." Concerns also later arose over LaMelo's National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) eligibility due to his signature shoe, the Melo Ball 1 (MB1), which had been released by Big Baller Brand in August 2017. His father claimed in September that he was willing to have him skip college as a result. On October 2, 2017, LaVar pulled him out of Chino Hills to be homeschooled, citing his dissatisfaction with Latimore and the school administration as the primary motive. He said that he wanted to avoid "distractions" for LaMelo and would personally train him at home.
On December 7, 2017, Ball signed with agent Harrison Gaines to play professionally overseas alongside his brother LiAngelo. The decision ensured that he would not play in the NCAA. In the following days, Gaines offered the brothers to teams in various European countries and also Japan, with hopes of them playing together.
|Name||Hometown||High school / college||Height||Weight||Commit date|
|Chino Hills, CA||Chino Hills (CA)||6 ft 3 in (1.91 m)||160 lb (73 kg)||Jul 31, 2015|
|Recruiting star ratings: Scout: N/A Rivals: 247Sports: ESPN: ESPN grade: 95|
|Overall recruiting rankings: 247Sports: 37, 4 (PG), 5 (CA) ESPN: 7, 2 (PG), 1 (CA)|
Vytautas Prienai–Birštonas (2018)
On December 11, 2017, Ball signed with BC Prienai of the Lithuanian Basketball League (LKL) and Baltic Basketball League (BBL), along with his brother LiAngelo. Although they both had the option of leaving after a month, they later chose to stay for the remainder of the season. LaMelo reportedly became the youngest American to ever sign a professional basketball contract. They arrived in the country with LaVar Ball on January 3, 2018 and continued to receive significant media attention in the United States. Most notably, ESPN reporter Jeff Goodman traveled to Lithuania to cover the family's first week with the team. Days later, Prienai announced its withdrawal from the BBL and the subsequent creation of the Big Baller Brand Challenge Games, a series of five exhibition games through January 2018 that would give the Ball brothers more playing time against mostly teams in the second-division National Basketball League (NKL).
Ball played his first contest in the Big Baller Brand Challenge Games on January 9, recording 10 points and nine assists, with six turnovers, in a 90–80 win over Žalgiris-2 Kaunas, a squad of under-18 players. On January 13, he made his professional debut in an 86–95 loss to Lietkabelis Panevėžys in LKL competition. In five minutes on the court, he went scoreless, shooting 0-of-4 from the field. Ball scored his first points at the professional level on January 21, 2018, recording 13 points and two steals, shooting 3-of-10 from the field, in a 93–116 defeat to Pieno žvaigždės Pasvalys. On January 23, in a 147–142 victory at the Big Baller Brand Challenge Games, he recorded 43 points, 10 assists, and 8 rebounds against Dzūkija Alytus. In the game, his father LaVar served as an assistant coach. On February 4, Ball scored a career-high 19 points, including four three-pointers, and six assists in 27 minutes in a loss to Žalgiris Kaunas. A week later, Ball received his first LKL start, finishing scoreless and missing four shots in a 95–93 win over Šiauliai.
On February 26, 2018, in the Big Baller Brand International Tournament loss to Wilki Morskie Szczecin, Ball suffered a leg injury that sidelined him for one month. Bleacher Report published an in-depth article on Ball's career in Lithuania two days later, titled "The LaMelo Show," covering his first month at the professional level. On April 2, Ball recorded a triple-double of 39 points, 16 rebounds, and 16 assists in a 127–110 win over the London Lions in an exhibition game in London. On April 25, it was announced that both Ball and his brother were leaving Prienai, with their father displaying resentment towards the team's head coach Virginijus Šeškus. He finished the LKL season averaging 6.5 points and 2.4 assists, with a field goal percentage of .268, in 12.8 minutes per game.
Los Angeles Ballers (2018)
On May 4, 2018, Ball signed with the Los Angeles Ballers of the Junior Basketball Association (JBA), a league created by his father LaVar as an alternative to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). Entering its inaugural season, the JBA touted Ball as its "marquee player." In his debut on June 21, he posted a triple-double of 40 points, 16 rebounds, 10 assists, and 3 steals, shooting 15-of-40 from the field, in a 134–124 win over the New York Ballers. Ball recorded a season-high 44 points, 13 rebounds, and 7 steals in a June 29 defeat to New York, shooting 12-of-35 from the field. In his first three games, he shot 3-of-32 from the three-point line, which was labeled as "extraordinarily awful" by USA Today. During the second half of the JBA's inaugural season, Ball would be reunited as teammates once again with his older brother, LiAngelo. In their first JBA game together, on July 14, they both recorded a triple-double, with LaMelo recording 25 points, a season-high 17 rebounds, and a season-high 19 assists in a 171–140 win over the Philadelphia Ballers. Five days later, he recorded another triple-double, this time putting up a game-high 48 points (on 18-35 shooting, including a 7-18 three-point shooting line), a JBA career-high 24 rebounds, and 14 assists in a blowout 170–123 win over the Atlanta Ballers, which gave them their first loss of the season.
In the team's season finale on June 26, Ball recorded a near triple-double with 34 points, a league-high 20 assists, 10 turnovers, and 9 rebounds in a 169–153 win over the Houston Ballers. For the eight regular season games played, Ball averaged a triple-double with 39.6 points, 14.6 rebounds, and a league-high 11.5 assists per game, as well as 3.8 steals per game. He was soon named to the West roster for the JBA All-Star Game at the end of the season alongside his older brother. On August 3, Ball recorded a team-high 42 points and 17 assists (although he was not named the Western All-Star team's MVP that night) as the Western All-Stars won 202–189 over the Eastern All-Stars under head coach LaVar Ball. During the first round of the inaugural JBA playoffs, Ball recorded a double-double of 34 points and 13 assists as Los Angeles moved onto the semifinal round, winning 157–134 over last place Philadelphia. In the semifinals game against New York the next day, he became the biggest player for the team, recording a professional career-high 55 points, 16 rebounds, and a team-high 7 assists in a close 127–124 win. In the last game of the season on August 12, Ball recorded a near triple-double of 34 points, 15 rebounds, and 9 assists, though he had 10 turnovers, as the Los Angeles Ballers won the JBA Finals over the Seattle Ballers 132–121 to be the inaugural champions of the JBA. After the conclusion of the inaugural JBA season, Ball would be named one of 14 players to join the JBA USA Team for their 2018 international tour. In their debut match on September 22, he recorded a double-double of 31 points and 10 rebounds, as well as a team-high 8 assists, in the JBA USA Team's close 120–118 win over the Svendborg Rabbits of Denmark.
Return to high school
On November 5, 2018, Ball left the JBA international tour to join SPIRE Institute, a prep school in Geneva, Ohio, for his senior season under head coach Jermaine Jackson. Shortly after the announcement, three prestigious high school programs scheduled to face SPIRE, including Oak Hill Academy and La Lumiere School, canceled their match-ups because Ball had professional experience. On November 10, Ball made his season debut, recording 20 points and 10 assists in a 96–86 win over The Hill School.
Standing 6 feet 6 inches (1.98 m), Ball is considered a relatively tall point guard with a long wingspan. Earlier in his high school career, he was primarily considered a volume shooter. Currently, however, he is known to be a proficient three-point shooter while also having the ability to make inside shots. Ball frequently attempts long three-pointers, which has drawn comparisons to Stephen Curry. His style of play has been described as "erratic," and he has been criticized for taking too many shots. He has been slammed for frequently being uninvolved on the defensive end as well. Virginijus Šeškus, his head coach with Prienai, remarked about LaMelo: "You can't control that little chipmunk. You say, 'Don't shoot 40-footers.' Next thing you know, he's shooting 40-footers."
Off the court
In his high school basketball career, Ball has been regularly featured by national sports media and has also gained significant popularity on social media. On August 22, 2017, his 16th birthday, USA Today High School Sports labeled him as possibly "the most famous 16-year-old basketball star ever." An ESPN article called Ball a "legitimate celebrity" but tagged him as "the most hated high school athlete of all time." Eric Bossi of Rivals.com said, "The LaMelo Ball phenomenon is the closest thing to Justin Bieber on a basketball court," citing both individuals' polarizing nature. LaMelo's fame and divisiveness has been attributed to the popularity of family, primarily his father LaVar. As of January 2018, Ball has 3.9 million followers on Instagram, putting him ahead of both Adidas Basketball and Under Armour Basketball.
On June 26, 2017, LaMelo, along with Lonzo and LaVar, appeared on a segment of WWE Raw. After his father ripped off his shirt in a confrontation with The Miz on the show, LaMelo yelled, "Beat that nigga ass!" Following the family's appearance, WWE commented on Ball's words in a statement: "The inappropriate language used by a guest during the 'Miz TV' segment was not scripted nor reflects WWE's values."
For LaMelo's 16th birthday, LaVar bought him a Lamborghini Gallardo. The younger Ball first publicized his new car in a promotional video for his signature MB1 shoes, and SLAM Magazine confirmed that LaMelo, in fact, owned it. The purchase of the car raised questions about its effect on LaMelo's work ethic and sparked debate on social media. NBA star Kevin Durant tweeted, "Young Melo with the Lambo. Stop playin wit shorty, he really out here," and also argued with a Twitter user that was critical of the birthday present.
Big Baller Brand
In April 2016, the Ball family announced the launch of a sports apparel brand called Big Baller Brand. On August 31, 2017, it announced the release of a signature shoe for LaMelo, called the Melo Ball 1 (MB1), which would be released in the following months. According to Big Baller Brand, the shoe is exceptionally light upon a request by Ball himself. The MB1 is currently priced at $395. On September 8, 2017, Lonzo released his first rap single, which was titled "Melo Ball 1" and publicized the shoe.
The announcement of the MB1 made LaMelo the first high schooler with a signature shoe but also raised questions about his eligibility to play in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). A statement by NCAA spokesperson Emily James said, "Generally speaking, a college athlete or prospect paid for use of their athletics reputation or ability risks their future eligibility in that sport. This includes profiting from the sale of items bearing the young person's name. NCAA rules, however, do allow prospects to promote commercial products prior to enrollment, provided it is not for pay." Ball's father, however, responded by saying, "NCAA ain't going to tell me s---" and suggesting that LaMelo would possibly skip college for that reason. The claims were confirmed in December 2017, when Ball signed with an agent, ensuring that he would not play college basketball.
In early July 2017, Deadline Hollywood reported the development of a Facebook reality show that would feature the Ball family. It would be a part of a larger project for Facebook to enter the video business. Weeks later, the show was announced was Ball in the Family. It began airing exclusively on the social media website on August 31, with the following episodes airing every Sunday from September 10. A second season of the show began in November 2017 and continued to be filmed into 2018 despite LaMelo's move to Lithuania. It was produced by Bunim/Murray Productions, which also helped create the reality TV series Keeping Up with the Kardashians on E! and Real World on MTV. LaVar has been considered the main focus of the show, with LaMelo and his brothers taking supporting roles.
|GP||Games played||MPG||Minutes per game||FG%||Field goal percentage|
|3P%||3-point field goal percentage||FT%||Free throw percentage||RPG||Rebounds per game|
|APG||Assists per game||SPG||Steals per game||BPG||Blocks per game|
|PPG||Points per game||Bold||Career high||Led the league|
|†||Denotes seasons in which Ball won a championship|
|*||Led the league|
|2018†||Los Angeles Ballers||JBA||8||46.0||.408||.138||.799||14.6||11.5*||3.8||1.25||39.6|
|2018†||Los Angeles Ballers||3||3||40||.466||.297||.932||11.7||9.7||3||0.7||41.0|
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