Growing up in the Los Angeles suburb of Chino Hills, Lonzo and LaMelo Ball would play some epic 2-on-2 and 3-on-3 games versus one another in their backyard, but Zo says they didn’t play 1-on-1 too much.
On Friday night they’ll face-off as the first brothers in NBA history to be drafted in the Top 5 and then eventually play against one another.
Lonzo was the No. 2 overall pick of the Lakers in 2017 and LaMelo went No.3 overall to the Hornets in the 2020 NBA Draft. Their other brother LiAngelo will participate in the G-League Bubble this season. This is a highly anticipated matchup for the oldest and youngest of LaVar Ball’s sons.
So far this season, Lonzo (13.4 ppg) is averaging more points than Melo (11.8 ppg). The rookie, however, has been finding his rhythm and is averaging more assists (5.1) and rebounds (4.9) while playing 9 minutes fewer per game.
LaVar instilled some major work ethic in all three of his sons from running hills daily to long hours spent on the hardwood perfecting their craft. Dad and the brothers always said they’d be NBA players. That’s the type of confidence and belief instilled in them by their loquacious and outspoken father. His tactics may be a bit unconventional but from the looks of things they’ve worked.
Zo and Melo were teammates with middle brother Gelo (G League Bubble) player, at Chino Hills high school when Lonzo was a senior and LaMelo was a freshman. That team also featured Onyeka Okongwu the No. 6 overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. They went undefeated, winning state and national championships that season.
Lonzo played one year at UCLA, before being drafted by the Lakers, in a more traditional and basic route to the NBA. The younger brothers bucked the system, followed their Dad’s often-criticized plan and played against grown men for Prienai in Lithuania, as well as a bit stateside.
Melo started separating himself from the pack as he joined the Illawarra Hawks in the Australian National Basketball League (NBL) following a brief stint at Spire Academy. A strange path to say the least, but in the end, the youngest and oldest of the Ball brothers both ended up where they wanted to be and that’s in the NBA.
The two brothers say they talk all the time, but with the demands of the NBA schedule, communication is harder now. Both brothers are trapped in their own little whirlwind of NBA grind time during a pandemic where any kind of gatherings outside of the arena is considered a no go.
Melo says having Zo as an older brother has been invaluable because he gets to learn from Zo’s mistakes and get some very insightful advice.
One thing Zo has told Melo that sticks with the Hornets rookie is “The NBA is a long season full of ups and downs”.
Zo, a highly-touted prospect that Magic Johnson once called a franchise-changing player knows about the NBA grind all too well. He was thrust into a flurry of unattainable expectations and criticisms driven by the boisterousness, genius, rebel mentality, and overconfidence of his Black father. Lonzo entered the league with a target on his back.
Zo tells Melo to take it one game at a time and ice his knees following games. Besides that, it’s just basketball at the highest level in the world. Achieving greatness is not an easy task, but The Ball Brothers have been playing the game, basking in the spotlight and building an empire their entire life.
They’ll be emotions for sure when the Hornets and Pelicans clash and these two are out there battling one another. But both have agreed that they’ll both be more focused on the task at hand on the hardwood of the Smoothie King Center in “Nawlins”.
The family, however, will look at this moment as a victory.
Lavar Ball is sitting up somewhere smiling — and talking. He’s just not hogging up the cameras as he did when his sons were high school kids and he was working the media, changing the game with BBB and warning people about the exploitative NCAA system that has since been revamped.
Currently, there are nine sets of siblings in the NBA, including Steph and Seth Curry; Giannis, Thanasis and Kostas Antetokounmpo; Jrue, Aaron and Justin Holiday; Tre and Tyus Jones; Brook and Robin Lopez; Marcus and Markieff Morris; Juancho and Willy Hernangomez; Caleb and Cody Martin and Jalen and Jaden McDaniels
None of those tandems have captivated the eyes and attention of Gen Zers and transcended past basketball to celebrity status as early as The Ball Brothers. Melo entered the league worth $10 million.
From their wildly successful Facebook show “Ball In The Family” to the constant social media obsession that is a half-decade running, these guys have helped reshape the branding and marketing of young, Black athletes in America.
As far as basketball — the foundation of their success — goes, they always knew they’d be here, and now the time to bump heads has come. Excitement is overflowing, to say the least.