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Lonzo and LaMelo Ball are sympathetic figures now

The brothers Ball have become sympathetic figures

The brothers Ball have become sympathetic figures
Photo: Paul Beaty (AP)

If Lavar Ball was to be believed, NBA fans should be nearing phase two of the Ball-aissance. Lonzo is in his sixth year, LaMelo is in his third, and LiAngelo, well, if things had panned out, he’d be somewhere in between. But LiAngelo currently has no entries on his Basketball Reference page, Lonzo is shut down for the season with a prolonged knee injury, and LaMelo just had year-ending ankle surgery himself.

While the final grade is still an incomplete, the narrative could be that Lavar’s boys were overhyped and will never fulfill the promises of the father. Five years ago, Lavar was such a larger-than-life personality that he was debating Stephen A. Smith on First Take about whether he could beat Michael Jordan in a game of one on one. He also said if Lonzo and Steph Curry swapped places — UCLA for the Bay — the Bruins wouldn’t have been as good. These are merely two examples of how inane Lavar’s schtick was.

He hyped his sons, hyped himself, had LaMelo playing overseas before college, LiAngelo joining them after being dismissed from UCLA, and rolled out the Big Baller Brand. He screamed “Never lost!” as his offspring repeatedly took Ls and subsequently left his triple B brand.

Yet, even with the injuries this season, Lonzo’s uncertain future, and only two of three making the league, I would categorize what they’ve done, despite their father, as a success.

Lonzo’s career has been derailed by his knee, not his jumper

The eldest brother was drafted No. 2 overall by the Los Angeles Lakers, and in addition to the expectations heaped on him by his father, Magic Johnson deemed Lonzo a cornerstone of a Lake Show resurgence.

We all know how that turned out. The Baby Lakers were scrappy but only good enough to be dispatched for Anthony Davis in a trade. Lonzo toiled in New Orleans and kept working to reconfigure his jumper, and all of that time in the gym landed him in Chicago with a new contract.

A meniscus issue ended his first year with the Bulls after he helped get them in first place in the East, and we haven’t seen him since. The news is continually disheartening, and the primary feeling I have when it comes to Lonzo is sympathy.

He did everything a professional is supposed to do: Worked his ass off to improve, stayed focused, and didn’t let the slow start frustrate him. If this injury ends his career — and I hope it doesn’t — the only people who will say he was a bust are the ones who stopped watching after he left L.A.

LaMelo picked a great season to have a disastrous year

There was no scenario in which LaMelo was going to get better with the 2022-23 Charlotte Hornets. His alley-oop partner is gone, Steve Clifford was rehired as his coach, and the team is saddled with the kind of mismanagement that’s become Michael Jordan’s calling card.

However, the uncontrollable issues that led to the team not paying Miles Bridges gave them a golden ticket to play the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes. It was the best thing to happen to Charlotte since Golden State passed on LaMelo.

If you remember, the youngest Ball was a mystery because we had no idea what to believe from his development. The kid got jacked around from team to team, country to country so much that the Warriors passed on a prospect who would’ve been perfect for the way they play.

Ideally, better fortune will find one of the Ball brothers yet. And I don’t feel bad about wishing for good things to happen to Lonzo and LaMelo. It’s just quite a shift from how I — and probably a lot of people who were turned off by Lavar’s antics — felt before his sons entered the league.



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