LaMelo Ball's manager says people profit off him 'like he's a prostitute'

LaMelo Ball of the Illawarra Hawks warms up before their game against the Sydney Kings in the Australian Basketball League in Sydney, Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)
LaMelo Ball plays in Australia because of 'connections.' (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

LaMelo Ball has spent a large chunk of his life in the public eye doing wild things his father, LaVar, made him do. The lead-up to his life in the NBA has gone on for years with more oddities than arguably any other player.

Mirin Fader spent two weeks with LaMelo Ball in Australia that included some time with the Ball family and camera crews for their “Ball in the Family” Facebook show. Her feature for Bleacher Report is a detailed, intimate look at the 18-year-old’s life but one thing stood out above all else.

LaMelo’s manager compares situation to prostitution

His manager, Jermaine Jackson, who is also the former coach at SPIRE Institute, put it best. From Fader at Bleacher Report:

For LaMelo, this is the same script, different continent. "People done made money off this kid for years," says Jackson, who played in the NBA from 1999 to 2006. "I don't really want to use the word, but it's damn near like he's a prostitute."

That LaMelo is a product and nothing more comes up a few times in the feature. When asked why LaMelo is on a bad team in Australia, rather than a good one or one in another country, Jackson said it’s due to “connections” that he won’t reveal.

"If you know someone at a hair salon, you're gonna go to that salon. It's never about what's best for the kid. It's about what's best for the rest."

The youngest of the Ball boys recognizes it himself, telling Fader:

“People don't look at you as a human. People look at you as a dollar sign."

"People don't know me, know me as a person. They don't know what I've been through."

In October, Forbes published an article on LaMelo that focused on his commercial and global appeal rather than his play. The piece was about teams’ interest in drafting him, though the first reason was his social media appeal that would have a Zion Williamson-like impact on ticket sales. The SPIRE Institute academy director was quoted and both Jackson and LaMelo weren’t happy by it.

LaMelo says he’s ‘misunderstood’ due to LaVar

It’s hard to deny that viral aspect of the Ball family. LaVar Ball has made his crew a basketball version of the Kardashians with bold statements and a reality show. It’s a hype machine, and that has translated to other places. LaMelo’s debut with his Australia National Basketball League team was reportedly the most-watched game in league history.

LaMelo placed some of that on his dad.

"I'm just misunderstood," LaMelo says. "About everything." That's, of course, partially because of his father. Assumptions that people have are fed by whatever his father says or does. "It gets attached to us," LaMelo says. "I mean, at the end of the day, that's my dad. I know him. He knows me. That's always going to be a bond."

LaVar referenced his oldest son, New Orleans Pelicans star Lonzo Ball, as “damaged goods” earlier this autumn on their reality show. It stemmed from a disagreement about former Big Baller Brand business partner Alan Foster and his alleged embezzlement.

Lonzo told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski later that he wasn’t bothered by it and that fathers and sons often disagree on things.

“That’s what fathers and sons do as time goes on. At the end of the day, it’s always love at the end.”

LaMelo took a similar step, telling Fader that he would never turn on his dad and rather than him ruining his career, as has been alleged, LaVar made him who he is.

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