It is a question that many have asked themselves (especially if you are a UCLA fan) ever since the Lavar and Lonzo Ball sensation hit airwaves this past spring. Lonzo is a top NBA talent, comparable to greats like Jason Kidd and Steve Nash. However, his persona has taken a backseat to that of his unfiltered father’s, whose only alleged agenda is to “promote the family brand”. This unintended circus act begs the question- how will this affect both the futures of the younger two as well as those who coach them?
Let me start off by saying, there has yet to be anything that Lavar Ball has said or done that has negatively affected the future of his boys. Maybe he burned some bridges, but Lavar has articulated a brilliant marketing scheme, built on trash talking and ignorance, that has taken the basketball world by storm.
If you disagree with this, just ask Lonzo how his career has been going so far. He’ll remind you that he’s had one of the best summer league showings in recent years while also being one of the most talked about rookies in over a decade. Lonzo is not phased by his father’s remarks simply because, like he says, “I’ve been dealing with it my whole life.” The fact of the matter is, Lonzo & his brothers have been conditioned to the chaos. I am confident that “The Hype” will not affect any of the Ball Brother’s careers at the next level.
It’s their games that will.
Now, the Ball Brother dynasty is all well and good for the future of UCLA basketball, right? Maybe, but we need to factor in what’s most important to the entire equation: Are LiAngelo and LaMelo great basketball players? Lonzo certainly is. The other two remain to be seen.
This is where opinions tend to vary. I, personally, don’t think LiAngelo or even LaMelo will come close to the potential and level that Lonzo has already proven he can play at. And this is exactly where the problem will lie.
From UCLA’s perspective, it is easy to deal with a few funny, ignorant distractions when it revolves around your unselfish, NBA ready point guard. Lonzo didn’t really need to coach at UCLA because his game was more than able to speak for itself. What coach wouldn’t be able to fit an unselfish playmaker with NBA talent into their offensive game plan, even with the off court antics?
But what about when there is less talent at stake? Now, we all know LiAngelo is certainly not Lonzo. That point has already been widely accepted. However, I foresee LiAngelo still fitting into what UCLA does, simply because expectations are much lower. The basketball also does not have to go through him or be in his hands at all times. I could imagine LiAngelo being 5th to 7th man this year for the Bruins, while having games where he goes off a little bit as well as games where he is a non-factor.
LiAngelo’s more subdued college career shouldn’t create any drama from Lavar, either. Lavar Ball isn’t stupid. He knows what all three of his sons are capable of, and besides, his attention will be too consumed with Lonzo’s rookie NBA season.
LaMelo, however, is a completely different story. Lonzo and LaMelo have already been compared to one another on numerous occasions, due to how similar their games are. The major difference to me is that Lonzo is dramatically better at that game. Are they both unselfish point guards who can handle the ball and find the open man right? Of course. Yet, what makes Lonzo so attractive is his ability to play that style with NBA size and athleticism. This allows him the ability to take over games by himself whenever necessary.
LaMelo, unfortunately, has neither the size, strength, or athleticism that Lonzo possesses. Many will say he still has a few years in high school, so he is still maturing. This is most certainly true, but what if he doesn’t?
Already committed to UCLA, LaMelo has shown signs of being a big ego and big personality. He takes trips off on defense and has yet to show any real kind of tenacity on the court. It seems his overall swagger and look is what’s most important to him. Add this to the inflated ego of begin the “second coming of Lonzo Ball,” and it could be the makings of a major bust.
What happens then? Will he still be coachable at the college level? Will his heart still be there, even if he doesn’t have the ball in his hands, or is even the backup to somebody better? It remains to be seen, but if I ever saw a ticking time bomb on the horizon, it would be LaMelo in a UCLA jersey.