Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise

LaMelo Ball won’t be in awe facing LeBron James for the first time, nor should he be

Mano a mano.
Mano a mano.
Illustration: Getty Images

LeBron James is about to face LaMelo Ball for the first time in his career. And LaMelo Ball ... doesn’t really give a shit.

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Well, not quite that explicitly, but Ball was asked yesterday about matching up with James and the Los Angeles Lakers in his home state of California. Questioned by ESPN’s Dave McMenamin about whether or not he felt added excitement, Ball responded, “I mean, nah,” in a video conference on Tuesday.

“I grew up a little different. Not really on basketball like that,” he continued. “So, nah, not really. I mean, it’ll be cool.”

Subsequently, asked about any players in particular that Ball idolized, he responded by saying, “I mean, it was my pops [LaVar Ball]. I was big on family and stuff like that. Not really with the basketball.”

And the answer is no, Ball shouldn’t care. Sure, it’ll be awesome that he shares the stage with James during his rookie season, in a year where he’s a near-lock for the same award LeBron won when entering the league 18 seasons ago. And you obviously don’t want to infringe for the sake of sheer disrespect. But you don’t want to look up to your competition on that night, either. For who, and for what? It won’t serve Ball to be in awe when James is inevitably driving by PJ Washington only to tomahawk through a wide-open lane because Gordon Hayward is making a business decision. (Rightfully so.)

Ball’s been leading rookies in points, rebounds, and assists per game until recently, where a recent Anthony Edwards surge elevated him past the Charlotte Hornets guard. Still, Ball’s averaging 15.8 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 6.3 assists, his shooting splits are 45 / 38 / 80, and he’s not watching LeBron like a seven-year-old child just happy to meet his or her idol while their entire family watches. He’s also a (not quite thee) primary reason why the Hornets are currently 20-18 and fifth in the Eastern Conference, coming off four straight wins ahead of battle with the 27-13 third-place Lakers.

LaMelo’s gonna go right at The King… he just best not miss.