LaVar Ball pulled up to ESPN’s First Take on Wednesday, and the chatterbox father of Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball suggested his youngest son, LaMelo, could “sit out” college if the NCAA rules against the high school star having a signature shoe.
If he does sit out, according to LaVar, he wouldn’t go overseas either. Instead, LaMelo would stay home and train for the 2020 NBA draft.
“When it comes to basketball and you’re good, you just better be ready for [NBA] training camp,” LaVar Ball said. “So they can’t stop me by saying, ‘OK, he’s not going to the NCAA.’ Who cares, he won’t go to the NCAA.
“‘Oh, he better go overseas.’ Why? All he gotta do is be faster and be stronger and when it’s time to prepare, we can sit out for as long as we want. If they’re going to give him a chance, they’re going to give him a chance.”
How did we get here?
On the last day of August, Big Baller Brand made LaMelo Ball — a high school junior — the first high school basketball player in history to have his own signature shoe.
LaMelo “meticulously designed and inspired” the shoe, aptly named the “Melo Ball 1.” It retails at $395 and features a “two-tone woven textile with Camo Flyknit upper” and “shock-absorbent material to make the shoe one of the lightest on the market,” per the BBB website.
Melo Ball 1, youngest in the game.
— Big Baller Brand (@bigballerbrand) August 31, 2017
There was one problem, though, with Ball’s signature shoe: LaMelo is set to cash in on his $395 shoe, especially if he keeps balling the way he has (no pun intended).
That’s illegal by NCAA rules. Central Florida kicker Donald De La Haye got kicked off the football team because he made money off his popular YouTube channel. We could go off on a tangent about how the NCAA makes billions of dollars off these kids’ backs but punishes them for trying to scrounge up some change of their own. We won’t do that today.
The bottom line is LaMelo can’t make money off his name or likeness if he’s going to be an NCAA athlete, which is why the Melo Ball 1s won’t fly at UCLA or any other college
When LaMelo’s signature shoe first dropped, LaVar Ball didn’t seem worried about college eligibility.
“We’ll worry about it when we get there,” he told ESPN’s Jeff Goodman in early September. “Who cares? If he can’t play, then he can’t play. It doesn’t mean he’ll stop working out and getting better. … Maybe in two years they’ll change the rule and he’ll be able to the NBA straight out of high school.”
But when he appeared on ESPN’s First Take on Wednesday, LaVar changed the narrative, insinuating the NCAA is fishing for rules to make his son ineligible:
“I’m good with that on the fact that they’re not even looking at it like, OK, this father just gave his son a shoe so he can perform better to his liking,” LaVar said. “The only thing they’re worried about is the money. How you thinking about, not saying that the shoe looks good or nothing like that. The first thing they’re trying to say is how can we make him ineligible?
“This has never happened before so you don’t even have a rule for it. You’re trying to find one, to say we gotta make him ineligible because he can’t be making money off a shoe.”
Why LaMelo could skip college
Most top NBA prospects come through the college pipeline, with the exception of few standout international players. There’s really no way around it. In fact, most players who choose to forego college for a year of overseas hoops do so as a means to secure a moneybag that creates a better life for their families.
But the Ball family needs no financial support. They just want to take the most efficient route to getting all three of the Ball brothers into the NBA.
For Lonzo and LiAngelo, that route involved college. For LaMelo, it may not.
In just two years at Chino Hills high school, LaMelo Ball has proved to be a gifted perimeter scorer — one of the best in the country after averaging 26.7 points per game in a spectacular sophomore season. But Melo’s lax defensive effort could be exposed, badly, on the college level, as well as his skinny frame (6’2,” 160 pounds) and rash shot choice.
Skipping college and training independently could prevent some of the holes in his game from being picked apart on the national spotlight. Ultimately, that could improve his draft stock.
Why LaMelo wouldn’t skip college
Ball could stand to lose much more than one of the most enjoyable phases of a young person’s life by skipping his “school daze.”
His older brother, Lonzo, for example, went to UCLA for just one season. And despite his poky defensive footwork and unusual shooting form, he emerged as a franchise-altering talent and is now a household name across the country.
That’s because the spotlight stateside is brighter than anywhere else in the world. LaMelo could go to UCLA and increase his marketability while wearing Under Armour shoes for a year. Then he’d enter the draft and rock Big Baller Brand kicks when Adam Silver calls his name.
There’s also a chance the NCAA rules BBB a family business. That would probably make LaMelo eligible to play college basketball. As an extreme, college basketball could change the way it views its players making money off themselves.
The NCAA hasn’t officially ruled LaMelo’s Melo Ball 1 shoes a violation of its rules. But if it does, the Ball family has a decision to make: forego college and train independently or ditch the sneakers for a year and pick them back up after the NBA draft. LaVar Ball has been right so far — he’s got one son on the Lakers and another with a full basketball scholarship to UCLA.
The ball is in his court.