You couldn’t turn on ESPN in 2017 without seeing LaVar Ball’s face on the screen. The boisterous father of phenoms Lonzo Ball, LiAngelo Ball, and LaMelo Ball, LaVar boldly proclaimed his three sons were coming to change the NBA as we know it. To no surprise, the elder Ball was heavily mocked and ridiculed.
Fast forward to 2022. Lonzo is the starting point guard for the top-seed Chicago Bulls. LaMelo is the reigning Rookie of the Year and face of the upstart Charlotte Hornets. And LaVar gets to proudly wear his “I told you so” hat as fans are now seeing just how good his sons actually are.
Lonzo Ball and LaMelo Ball have backed up the hype
Given their heightened expectations, it would have been understandable to see both Lonzo and LaMelo wilt under the pressure. Instead, the two young stars are proving themselves to be legitimate NBA talents.
First, there’s Lonzo. The fifth-year guard didn’t pan out the way the Los Angeles Lakers were hoping when they selected him second overall in the 2017 NBA Draft. After two seasons, he was traded to the New Orleans Pelicans as part of the Anthony Davis blockbuster. Then last summer, the 24-year-old signed a four-year, $80 million deal with the Chicago Bulls.
Ball has found a home in the Windy City. The 6-foot-6 guard is averaging 12.9 points, 5.5 rebounds, 5.1 assists, and 1.9 steals. He has become an elite 3-point shooter, going from 30.5% his rookie year to 41.8% this season. And most importantly, he is the primary facilitator and a crucial defender for the 26-11 Bulls, who are in search of their first playoff appearance since 2017.
LaMelo’s road to the NBA was a lot less traveled than his older brother’s. As Lonzo went the traditional one-and-done route out of UCLA, the youngest Ball went from Chino Hills to Lithuania to Los Angeles to Ohio to Australia. He then relocated one last time to Charlotte after the Hornets drafted him third overall in 2020.
While Lonzo is a more-than-capable starting point guard, LaMelo is a full-fledged star. After a Rookie of the Year season, Melo is averaging 19.4 points, 7.3 rebounds, 7.6 assists, and 1.7 steals. With a combination of highlight-reel passes and game-winning heroics, the 20-year-old is commanding the elite offense of the 22-19 Hornets.
LaVar Ball wasn’t off-base in suggesting Lonzo and LaMelo would be stars
Before LaVar receives all the credit, there are a few things he got wrong. Lonzo is not better than Stephen Curry, as he famously declared when the guard was at UCLA. Big Baller Brand never became the global brand that would one day supplant Nike. And even though we haven’t seen it yet, we have it on good authority that he would not, in fact, defeat Michael Jordan one-on-one.
That being said, Lonzo and LaMelo are making their father look like a genius.
In his fifth season, Lonzo is widely considered to be an above-average starting point guard. With a well-rounded arsenal, he’s currently on pace to become the first player in league history to average at least five assists, five rebounds, one steal, and one block while making at least three triples a game over the course of a full season. Not too shabby for a guard who’s still only 24.
LaMelo, on the other hand, is where LaVar really got it right. Considered by his father to be the best of the Ball brothers, few players in the NBA are more exciting to watch than the Hornets point guard. As a player his own general manager compared to the great Kobe Bryant, Ball hasn’t even begun to touch his ceiling.
They may not be GOATs their father envisioned, but his two sons playing at a high level for winning teams is enough to admit LaVar was right.
The future is bright for Lonzo Ball and LaMelo Ball
Five years might not be enough time to fully decide whether LaVar Ball was “on the ball.” After all, we are still waiting to see all three brothers play together and win a title. But we can confidently look at both Lonzo and LaMelo and see there is more greatness to come.
The youngest Ball is destined to make his first All-Star Game next month in Cleveland. It appears to be the first of many for LaMelo, who’s the second-youngest player to secure a triple-double in NBA history. Most veterans don’t play with the same level of ease Ball already does at 20. Imagine him in two or three years.
As for Lonzo, he likely won’t be the star his younger brother is. But Lonzo’s style is conducive to winning, as the Bulls sit atop the Eastern Conference thanks in part to him. Not to mention, his year-to-year shooting numbers are already one example of how he is capable of significant improvements.
At this rate, we could see Lonzo’s Bulls and LaMelo’s Hornets both in the playoffs, perhaps against one another. If that happens, expect LaVar to have front-row seats and a wide smile on his face. Because, in the end, the Big Baller was right.