In 2016, Lavar Ball and his sons were poised to be the future of professional basketball. Three brothers who played high school basketball at an incredible level, a dad with a mouth bigger than a black hole, and a culture that will give attention to any blowhard who knows how to use Twitter. But, after peaking at NBA’s 2017 draft night, the Ball family has been sliding down the slipperiest of slopes.
After UCLA was eliminated from the NCAA Tournament in March 2017, it seemed that the Ball era had begun in earnest. Lavar Ball began to discuss how UCLA’s elimination was the fault of everyone but Lonzo, including coaches, other players, referees, and the other team. Leading up to the NBA Draft, Lavar Ball was clear in his intent to have his son play for their hometown Los Angeles Lakers. The Balls even went as far to refuse a workout with the Boston Celtics, the Lakers’s long-time rival who owned the first overall pick in the draft. On draft night, Lavar Ball got his wish, and the Lakers drafted Lonzo Ball with their draft pick. Los Angeles even traded away D’Angelo Russel, who was shaping up to be Lonzo’s toughest competition for the starting point guard spot.
Over the summer, Lavar Ball continued his off-court antics, as he was ejected from his son’s AAU game for berating an official. Lavar even went so far as to threaten to pull his team off the court, and forfeited a game. His reasoning? “The referees were cheating.” Great. The worst part? Lavar was praised for his actions. All publicity is good publicity, and in the slow summer sports season, Lavar Ball sideline antics were featured on ESPN for days.
Apart from the announcement of Lonzo’s overpriced signature shoe, the Balls were relatively quiet in the months leading up to the NBA season. Then, in early October, Lavar announced his plan to pull his youngest son, LaMelo, out of school. LaMelo was being removed from his high school as a result of Lavar’s personal beef with Chino Hills’s head basketball coach. Lavar couldn’t play nice, so his son’s education is going to suffer. At the time, Lavar announced that he would be homeschooling LaMelo, so he could better focus on preparing for his college career at UCLA.
As the NBA season started, Lonzo Ball was underwhelming. His highly criticized shooting motion was proving to be detrimental to his performance, as Lonzo posted record low field-goal percentages for any rookie. Ever. At this point, Lonzo Ball has the worst field goal percentage in the league. He also has the worst three point percentage of any who has attempted at least 25 three-point shots. He has shown potential in his rebounding and play-making abilities, but his shooting has been abysmal.
Disaster struck in November, when LiAngelo Ball traveled to China with the UCLA basketball team. For those who don’t know the story, it’s a long one. Essentially, LiAngelo was suspected of shoplifting from a store with his teammates, they were arrested, eventually sent home, and indefinitely suspended from the team. Meanwhile, Lavar Ball started a Twitter beef with the President of the United States. 2017 is weird. After LiAngelo served a small portion of his suspension, he left UCLA. He withdrew from the school, upon his father’s insistence, and signed with Lonzo’s agent. The plan was to have LiAngelo play a year of professional basketball overseas before being drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers. Again, that was the plan. The problem with that plan is that no NBA team has expressed any interest in scouting or drafting LiAngelo. He wasn’t even the premier player at UCLA. Since Lavar no longer associated himself with UCLA, LaMelo’s plans had to change as well. So, LaMelo signed with an agent as well, and was to play overseas until he was ultimately drafted by the Lakers.
That brings us to today. LiAngelo and LaMelo have made a decision, and have decided to take their talents to…Lithuania? The Lithuanian club plays in one of the higher leagues in Europe, but it’s still Lithuania.
It’ll be interesting to see how this saga develops going into the new year. What will happen if the Lakers don’t draft LiAngelo when the 2018 NBA Draft rolls around? Will Lonzo request a trade from the Lakers, and go to a team willing to sign his brother? Or will the two younger brothers fade into irrelevance while their older brother continues his professional career?
It’s hard to believe that Lithuania is where this family wants to be. Their brand is allegedly for Big Ballers, but it’s hard to believe that dropping out of high school, getting caught shoplifting, being suspended from your college basketball team, being the worst shooter in the NBA, or playing and living in Eastern Europe are the preferred actions of a family of big ballers. I wish the Balls the best, but for their sake, I hope they have a back-up plan.
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