It’s rare that amateur basketball players can progress to the college leagues, let alone the NBA without a high school prep career but that’s exactly what LaMelo Ball and his father, LaVar Ball are banking on. The younger Ball verbally committed to UCLA at the age of 13 but that was before the shoe deals, the commercials and his father electing to pull him from Chino Hills High School, with two years left of eligibility, in favor of home schooling. A five-star recruit by most recruiting outlets, the 16-year-old Ball will have to continue to progress through his father’s AAU team, Big Ballers Brand, and practice. Good idea or bad idea? Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley of the AFRO Sports Desk debates.
Riley: It’s not unheard of for kids to arrive to college without a high school resume, but in regards to the younger Ball’s future and for the delicacy of his position as point guard, the younger Ball needs all the work he can handle, making this decision to remove him from school a bad one. LaVar Ball has created a theme within his family that basketball will ultimately be the saving grace for his kids. But, he’s putting all the chips on the line for LaMelo to make it in the pros and that’s unfair to a teenager. With older brother and son, Lonzo already an immensely paid rookie guard for the Los Angeles Lakers, maybe LaVar felt like the time was ripe to take a gamble, but LaMelo has just been robbed of two years of his life that should’ve been the most memorable time of his career. And with the decision to create a signature shoe for his son, LaVar may have cost LaMelo a chance at college as well.
Green: The NCAA may be forced to reevaluate it’s entire landscape due to the fallout from an FBI probe so there’s no telling if that aspect may hurt LaMelo two years now. But even before LaMelo was pulled from school, the younger Ball had already become a bullseye for criticism and hatred due to the popularity of LaVar and Lonzo. Being the brunt of booing and bashing from opposing high school gyms should be something that won’t be missed by the younger Ball. And even if college isn’t an option, playing overseas will definitely be awaiting someone of his popularity who will draw in fans. LaMelo has a brother playing in the NBA in 2017 where money gets handed out like free movie tickets to a B-list movie. He’ll be fine even if he never picks up a book or ball ever again.
Riley: Relying on your older brother’s riches is something I doubt LaMelo wants to do. He’s talented enough to carve out his own career as a “baller” but skipping your final two years of high school is like creating your own demise. He’s going to miss the workout routines, the on-court competition and the education—basically everything designed to help shape him as an individual and professional. LaVar Ball has turned his sons’ talents into a full blown business venture, but whether or not it’s the right decision won’t be known until years from now. At this moment, however, it doesn’t look like it.
Green: As revealed by the recent FBI investigation of the NCAA, it’s clear that basketball has been a business, and a pretty lucrative one, for decades now. Criticizing LaVar for him wanting to cash in on some of the money floating out there isn’t fair and outright hypocritical. LaMelo is too talented and too popular to not advance in his career. Someone will give him a shot if UCLA or any other college won’t. Ball has more Instagram followers than companies like Under Armour and is a heavy influence on YouTube. Today’s social media influence is definitely advantageous to programs and organizations from a marketing and profiting standpoint. If you have professional basketball talent, you will get multiple chances to succeed in today’s society. That’s just the reality. LaMelo Ball would’ve had a chance to advance his career even if he never played a second of high school basketball. Missing two years won’t cost him much.