The NBA made it past Thanksgiving before LaVar Ball popped out of his hole, saw his shadow, and had to say something outrageous about one of his basketball-playing sons. On Nov. 26, Ball — father to Chicago Bulls point guard Lonzo Ball, reigning NBA Rookie of the Year LaMelo Ball of the Charlotte Hornets, and NBA G League wing LiAngelo Ball — couldn’t stop himself from taking a shot at Michael Jordan’s Hornets over their handling of LiAngelo.
The 23-year-old LiAngelo is the middle of the three Ball brothers. Lonzo is 24 and in his fifth NBA season. LaMelo, 20, has made some second-year leaps in Charlotte. But LiAngelo is still waiting for his first NBA shot. The good news is that he’s getting paid to play again for the first time in a while. But he has yet to join his brothers as NBA players.
LiAngelo Ball is playing for the G League’s Greensboro Swarm
Of the three Ball brothers, LiAngelo Ball had the most challenging road to professional basketball. After his career at Chino Hills High School, Ball enrolled at UCLA. But before he could play in an official game for the Bruins, Ball and two teammates faced shoplifting charges during a season-opening trip to China, per Sports Illustrated. UCLA suspended the players indefinitely, and Ball withdrew from school less than a month later.
After LaMelo left Chino Hills before his junior year in 2017, LaVar Ball took his two youngest sons to Lithuania as a package deal. The pair signed with Prienal Vytautas, and LiAngelo averaged 12.6 points and 2.9 rebounds in 21.7 minutes per game in 14 games in the Lithuanian LKL domestic league. He later played in the summer of 2018 with the Los Angeles Ballers in the Junior Basketball Association.
LaVar Ball founded the league as an alternative to college basketball. After surgery on his ankle in 2019, LiAngelo Ball signed with the G League’s Oklahoma City Blue. He didn’t make an appearance before COVID-19 shut the league down in March 2020.
Last season, LiAngelo got a training-camp contract with the Detroit Pistons but was waived without making a preseason appearance. He played for the Hornets in the Las Vegas Summer League in July 2021. Charlotte signed Ball and waived him the next day; Greensboro later selected him in the first round of the G League draft.
It’s here where the opinion of the Hornets’ organization and the views of Big Daddy Baller diverge.
LaVar Ball says the Hornets are wasting a ‘superstar’
LiAngelo Ball played four games with the Swarm during the G League Showcase Cup. Greensboro went 0–4, but Ball scored 22 points in 24 minutes in his G League debut against the Birmingham Squadron.
But afterward, Ball had a combined 15 points on 6-of-13 shooting in 31 minutes over the next three games. He went scoreless in four minutes of playing time in a loss to the Rio Grande Valley Vipers on Nov. 13.
LiAngelo averages 9.3 points in 13.8 minutes a game, shooting 57.7% overall and hitting 7-of-14 from 3-point range. But to hear LaVar Ball talk about it to TMZ, the Hornets are wasting the prime years of a superstar on the bench in Greensboro:
“They don’t understand what they got. They need to let my boy go ahead and play. I dropped them a superstar in the G League, and they don’t know what to do with him.”
The elder Ball said Charlotte should bring LiAngelo to the NBA roster to play with LaMelo. Then LaVar said he had a different team in mind.
“I already said the Lakers, but then they got rid of ’Zo,” LaVar said. “Then I said Charlotte; y’all got him right in your back door. Now, I got a new destination. LA Clippers, here we go.”
The Clippers are free to negotiate with LiAngelo. But they would have to sign him to a regular contract; 10-day contracts can’t be offered until Jan. 5.
LaVar Ball doesn’t help LiAngelo Ball by talking so much
On the one hand, LaVar Ball is exceptionally relatable. Many parents with kids involved in sports believe their child is the next big thing, whether or not the belief is justified. Some of those parents make it their business to promote their kids to various coaches, team officials, school administrators, and anyone else they can corner.
But LaVar isn’t helping. Specifically, he’s not helping LiAngelo Ball at all. Lonzo and LaMelo were No. 2 overall draft picks in the NBA. They were going to get opportunities to make their mark in the NBA regardless of what LaVar Ball said or did.
That’s not the case for LiAngelo. His game is different; he’s not a point guard archetype. Instead, he’s a shooting guard/combo wing. He’s on the smallish side for that slot at 6-foot-5. He’s going to have to scratch and claw for every chance he gets in pro basketball.
An organization will view LaVar as a necessary accessory when building around top prospects like Lonzo and LaMelo. But for a player like LiAngelo, a three-star recruit coming out of high school, without a draft pick attached to him to give him value to an organization, LaVar’s mouth is excess baggage that a club neither wants nor needs.
If LiAngelo Ball is going to find a home in pro basketball — and he does have talent — he will be a deep rotation player. That’s a realistic ceiling for him. He’s not a superstar. Neither is Lonzo, for that matter, while the jury is out on LaMelo.
If LaVar Ball wants to help LiAngelo achieve his dream of an NBA roster spot, the best thing he can do is stop talking and let his son’s play determine his future.