Enough is enough.
LaVar Ball…your shtick is overplayed. Speaking of overplayed, the hand you’ve deftly cultivated for your family has also been overplayed.
As has been reported by various media outlets, Ball has pulled his middle child — LiAngelo — out of UCLA. The plan is to have LiAngelo (19) and the family’s youngest child, LaMelo (16), head overseas to further their respective basketball futures.
Of course, this scenario has to be on LaVar’s terms. The duo will be a packaged deal — meaning any professional team wanting to take one will be forced to take both…along with the headache presented by their father.
I won’t delve too much into the situation involving LiAngelo and UCLA’s trip to China. The decision to allegedly steal something from a designer store — let alone in a foreign country — is utterly foolish. Though cleared of any legal issues, the university opted to institute an indefinite suspension. There was no guarantee that LiAngelo — nor his other teammates involved in the ordeal (Cody Riley, Jalen Hill) — would get to play this season.
LaVar didn’t like this period of ambiguity. As such, he made the move to pull his son from university life. In the process, LaVar will shop his two younger boys around for a professional basketball deal. This ends LiAngelo’s eligibility at UCLA, and likely will prevent LaMelo from ever suiting up at the collegiate level. While it’s no place for anyone to lecture another parent on raising their own children, this entire situation is a sad one.
Lonzo Ball was a prohibitive top-10 player in the country for his age group. He parlayed an exceptionally good freshman year into becoming the No. 2 Overall pick in last year’s NBA Draft. LaMelo Ball is regarded as a 5-star prospect in his own class. Possessing terrific size and a great handle, many think “Melo” could end up being the best one of all.
LiAngelo, on the other hand, isn’t nearly the same level of prospect when compared to his brothers. For one, he inherited a frame better suited for the football field rather than the basketball court. Conditioning has already become a problem — as has LiAngelo’s inability to defend at a high clip. A lack of innate athleticism and quickness truly limits his ceiling as a basketball player. That’s not to say LiAngelo can’t become a productive professional, but it’s far from a slam dunk.
When looking at things objectively, it made sense for LiAngelo to stay in college. He was never going to be a one-and-done player — despite LaVar’s proclamations. No NBA team would’ve drafted him in the second round, let alone the first round. UCLA is a world class institution. It’s one of the top universities academically in the country, and has an exceptionally rich basketball legacy. There would’ve been nothing wrong with LiAngelo playing three or four years in college — which then would’ve resulted in a college degree. As is the case with LaMelo, would he be better served developing in the United States versus the absolute best competition possible? Or, will a volatile and potentially tumultuous situation abroad hinder his game’s improvement?
However, this logical premise was simply beneath LaVar. From a basketball standpoint, the plan to package together two brothers from a controversial family can’t be too appealing for any major team in Europe. For one, domestic clubs face an additional tax on foreign-based players. Secondly, neither LaMelo nor LiAngelo have proven themselves to be capable of playing in any professional league. As an undersized power forward, LiAngelo will struggle to guard anyone. LaMelo is 16 years of age, and is far from reaching his physical peak. One has to wonder how either will do against prideful grown men. Considering the profile of the family, one can be assured that a 10-year veteran will not let either of the brothers ‘clown’ on them.
Rumors have the Ball brothers’ agent reaching out to teams in Japan, Croatia, Lithuania, and France. The sheer act of living in Europe — a culture vastly different from that of Chino Hills — could very well be problematic. Unless LaVar plans on moving across the pond to Europe, the boys will be without the booming presence. Lastly, are the boys good enough to warrant a professional team taking on the extra baggage? For a smaller team in search of publicity and monetary gain, signing both brothers could act as a short-term lightning rod. However, will the fellow members of the team be comfortable with LiAngelo and LaMelo dominating the ball? Or worse, even taking half-court shots during an organized game?
One has to wonder…is this decision based upon playing the game of basketball, or fostering the potential growth of Big Baller Brand abroad? We’ve seen one American basketball player (Stephon Marbury) garner cult status whilst playing away from the United States.
With this in mind, LaVar is pushing all of his chips to the middle of the table. His goal is to have all three of his boys starring for the Los Angeles Lakers. There’s no telling as to whether this dream will eventually come true — though it appears as if LaVar’s making this hope much more difficult with this recent decision.
Image Source: Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports