Saga Continues for Basketball’s Ball Brothers


UCLA. Credit: Wikimedia.

LiAngelo and LaMelo Ball, two of the iconic Ball brothers, have cut their ties with UCLA, and signed with a Lithuanian club team after running into some trouble with the law. Lavar Ball, their father, strongly encouraged the decision after LiAngelo was suspended from the UCLA basketball team following a shoplifting incident in China late last year.

All three brothers committed to UCLA, but none of them are attending the school anymore. After his first year at UCLA, Lonzo, 20, became a rookie for the Lakers after being drafted 2nd overall in the 2017 NBA Draft. LiAngelo, 19, was suspended from the team and pulled from the school after he was arrested, and LaMelo, 16, decommitted.

George Goodhead ’19, a senior from San Francisco and basketball fan, isn’t sure ditching the US to play in Lithuania is the best choice. “I think the decision is super risky and that Lavar may have either saved or killed his son’s careers,” George said. “I remember watching them a year ago and I was amazed at the playing style of basketball. The next thing I knew they rose to fame overnight.”

Before LiAngelo’s arrest, it seemed like Lavar’s plan was all coming together. His oldest son made it to the NBA with two others already committed to UCLA, and his own “Big Baller Brand” company expanded with Lonzo and LaMelo coming out with their signature shoes.

These plans crashed when LiAngelo, along with two other teammates, were caught shoplifting in China before their season opener. They faced up to 10 years in a Chinese prison, and stayed an extra week under house arrest in China while the rest of the UCLA team flew back to the States.

President Trump met with the Chinese president Xi Jinping, asking him to help out with the situation. Within two days the charges were dropped and LiAngelo was back in LA. LiAngelo apologized for his actions and was suspended indefinitely from the UCLA basketball team.

Lavar pulled LiAngelo out of UCLA as he felt the suspension was unfair. LaMelo and LiAngelo have signed with the Lithuanian club Prienu Vytautas.

Nithish Raja ’18 started watching the Ball brothers before they hit worldwide fame, and thinks the decision to withdraw from UCLA is a good one.

“Some people give him [Lavar] a lot of hate but I give him props for doing what he thinks is best for his sons,” Nithish said. “I feel like both the brothers will get a lot of experience playing in Lithuania. With LaMelo only being 16, he will grow a lot and be ready for the NBA in the upcoming future.”

Duncan LeXander, a senior on the boys’ varsity basketball team, said, “I think they are some pretty talented basketball players and Lavar is doing great job as a father, but with this whole LiAngelo thing he might be overstepping.”

Ethan Dursht ’19 had mixed feelings about the changed fate of the Ball brothers. “LiAngelo is probably less likely to be drafted and LaMelo will never have a good college coach to tell him what to do now,” Ethan said. “However, you never really know how things will shape up. The Ball brothers could succeed overseas and more importantly mature from babies into adults.”