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Ball brings needed notoriety to Charlotte

SUN. | 01-03-21 | SPORTS

     In this year’s NBA Draft, the Charlotte Hornets used their third overall pick on LaMelo Ball, the 6’8’’ guard out of Chino Hills, California. Ball has been in the limelight since he was a freshman in high school playing alongside his two older brothers Lonzo and LiAngelo. In LaMelo’s freshman year, the brothers led their high school to a state championship which propelled them to nationwide fame. They had their own reality show, individual shoe brands and even appeared in the WWE smackdown in the role of commentators for their father, Lavar Ball. Lonzo, the oldest brother, played college ball at UCLA and went second overall in the 2017 NBA draft to the LA Lakers. He now plays for the New Orleans Pelicans. LiAngelo, the middle child, also played for UCLA but only for a


Photo contributed by The North State Journal

brief period before being cut for stealing items from a store in China. He played in the NBA’s developmental league for a brief period and was recently signed by the Detroit Pistons. Now, all three brothers are NBA athletes. 

     LaMelo’s path to the NBA has not exactly been a straightforward one. Prior to his junior season in high school, LaMelo withdrew from school and elected to play basketball professionally in Lithuania. At the age of 16, LaMelo signed his contract, making him the youngest American ever to play for a professional basketball team. After a year in Lithuania, LaMelo came back to America for his senior season and instead of returning to Chino Hills, he enrolled at SPIRE Academy, an athletic prep school with a nationally ranked basketball team. LaMelo made an immediate impact on the team, leading them to a record of 17-2 while making himself a serious prospect in the process. Yet after graduating from SPIRE in 2019, LaMelo was forced to go overseas again. Because LaMelo played professionally his junior season, he forfeited his college eligibility. He decided to play in the National Basketball League (NBL), the official league of New Zealand and Australia. LaMelo took the league by storm, averaging 17 points, seven boards and seven assists as a rookie, solidifying himself as a future lottery pick. 

     As a Hornets fan, I was extremely excited when they drafted LaMelo Ball. How could a 6’8” point guard that can get to the rim, pass extremely well and grab rebounds not be good? While his jumper needs work, this can be easily resolved by lots of reps and the expertise of a NBA shooting coach. The Hornets have done an excellent job in recent years of gathering young talent in the form of Davonte Graham, Miles Bridges and P.J. Washington. LaMelo will fit right into this core group and fill the true passing point guard role that has been missing from the offense in years past. His handle for someone of his size is unmatched throughout the league. He can break-down defenders at the top of the key and get to the hoop where he can easily score with one of his many crafty finishes. 

     Not only is LaMelo extremely talented, his worldwide fame is intriguing to fans. Charlotte sports fans will finally be excited to go to a Hornets game, they may even buy LaMelo Ball jerseys. Obviously this is a good thing for the organization. More tickets sold and more jerseys bought means more reason for the Hornets franchise to stay in Charlotte. Not only will the arena finally be full, Charlotte will gain national media attention and some games may actually be televised. People want to watch LaMelo play at the highest level. After all, they’ve followed his journey since he was a freshman in high school at age 15. Because of the national media attention, Charlotte may finally become a premier destination for the best free agents. Can you imagine? All-NBA talent coming to play basketball in Charlotte? While this hasn’t happened yet, I believe it will in the near future and when it does, we can thank LaMelo Ball. 

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