LaMelo Ball is destroying NCAA basketball, one power move at a time.
The 18-year-old global basketball sensation has become a pioneer in player empowerment, and now he is the owner of a professional basketball franchise.
Ball, along with his manager, Jermaine Jackson, said on Thursday that they purchased the Illawarra Hawks of the Australian National Basketball League. It’s the same team that Ball averaged 17.0 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 7.0 assists for just a few months ago.
Ball has set a remarkable precedent of success for future high school athletes to follow.
While he isn’t the first athlete to take his talents overseas before the draft, he was certainly the most notable, especially in recent memory.
Ball has an estimated net worth of $1 million, has reportedly been offered a $100 million dollar shoe endorsement deal and has now solidified himself as a top-five NBA Draft prospect and has a larger Instagram audience than the Vice President of the United States.
Through the innovation of his father Lavar, Ball has captured what so many people spend their whole lives searching to obtain and what the NCAA refuses to relent.
More explicitly, financial freedom.
Ball’s young career that saw him commit to UCLA at age 13 as well as the media explosion that followed his 92 point game as a sophomore at Chino Hills, high school in California making his games standing-room-only events, has allowed him and his family to dictate every single step of his journey.
By playing abroad, he was never tied to NCAA eligibility rules, nor was he restricted to lackluster scholarship allowances.
Ball never let the fictional construct of amateurism define him. And he has shown a new generation of athletes that they don’t have to be defined by it either.
At 16, he was the youngest player ever to have a signature shoe when his father’s company, Big Baller Brand, announced the Melo Ball 1s.
A couple of months later, the Ball family announced that LaMelo and his older brother, LiAngelo, would be starting their professional careers in Lithuania. Both players signed one-year deals with Vytautas Prienai of the Lithuanian Basketball League.
After his time in Lithuania, LaMelo went to play at SPIRE academy in Ohio, for what would have been his senior year. He averaged close to a triple-double that season and literally had other teams refuse to play him.
Following the SPIRE experiment, LaMelo still had a year left to spare before he could go to the NBA because of a rule that prohibits players from entering the draft until one year after the players’ projected high school graduation, so he decided to shake the table again and announce that he would instead play professional ball in Australia.
And if he can win, that means other young athletes can, too.
LaMelo is the prototype that could dismantle college basketball as we know it.
Ten years from now, we may look at him as the catalyst to a movement that was well overdue.