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 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
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."
"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 Ball through the years
LaMelo Ball through the years
LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 08: LaMelo Ball, brother of Lonzo Ball #2 of the Los Angeles Lakers, smiles before shooting baskets as part of a promotion during a timeout in a 2017 Summer League game between the Boston Celtics and the Lakers at the Thomas & Mack Center on July 8, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Boston won 86-81. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
FILE - In this March 26, 2016, file photo, Chino Hills' Lamelo Ball, left, goes to the basket against De La Salle's Jordan Ratinho during the second half of the CIF boys' Open Division high school basketball championship game in Sacramento, Calif. Chino Hills won 70-50. Ball scored 92 points to help Chino Hills beat Los Osos 146-123 on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2017. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)
LiAngelo Ball, left, and his brother, LaMelo, talk before an NBA basketball game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Cleveland Cavaliers, Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 13: (L-R) Lavar Ball and LaMelo Ball look on from the audience during week eight of the BIG3 three on three basketball league at Staples Center on August 13, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
CHINO, CA - SEPTEMBER 02: LaMelo Ball attends Melo Ball's 16th Birthday on September 2, 2017 in Chino, California. (Photo by Joshua Blanchard/Getty Images for Crosswalk Productions )
CHINO, CA - SEPTEMBER 02: (L-R) Lonzo Ball, LaMelo Ball, LiAngelo Ball and Darren Moore attend Melo Ball's 16th Birthday on September 2, 2017 in Chino, California. (Photo by Joshua Blanchard/Getty Images for Crosswalk Productions )
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 12: LaMelo Ball and LiAngelo Ball attend the Los Angeles Lakers Vs New York Knicks game at Madison Square Garden on December 12, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by James Devaney/Getty Images)
KAUNAS, LITHUANIA - JANUARY 12: LaMelo Ball and LiAngelo Ball in action during the 2017/2018 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Regular Season Round 17 game between Zalgiris Kaunas and Unicaja Malaga at Zalgirio Arena on January 12, 2018 in Kaunas, Lithuania. (Photo by Alius Koroliovas/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images)
PRIENAI, LITHUANIA - JANUARY 09: LaMelo Ball of Vytautas Prienai prior to the match between Vytautas Prienai and Zalgiris Kauno on January 9, 2018 in Prienai, Lithuania. (Photo by Alius Koroliovas/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 07: LaMelo Ball attends a basketball game between the Los Angeles Lakers and and the Minnesota Timberwolves at Staples Center on November 07, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images)
PRIENAI, LITHUANIA April 28: The Ball family, including Tina Ball, watching Lithuanian Basketball League game between BC Vytautas (Prienai-Birstonas) and BC Neptunas (Klaipeda) at Prienai. 2018 (Photo by Mindaugas Kavaliauskas for The Washington Post via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 22: LaMelo Ball, Liangelo Ball and Lonzo Ball attend the World Premiere Of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures "Avengers: Endgame" at Los Angeles Convention Center on April 22, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JULY 05: LaMelo Ball attends the NBA Summer League on July 05, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Cassy Athena/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - MARCH 31: LaMelo Ball looks on during the Big Baller Brand All American Game at the Orleans Arena on March 31, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Cassy Athena/Getty Images)
WOLLONGONG, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 21: American teenage star, LaMelo Ball, poses for a photograph during an Illawarra Hawks NBL media opportunity at The Snakepit on August 21, 2019 in Wollongong, Australia. (Photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images)
WOLLONGONG, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 21: American teenage star, LaMelo Ball slam dunks during an Illawarra Hawks NBL training session at The Snakepit on August 21, 2019 in Wollongong, Australia. (Photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images)
WOLLONGONG, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 21: American teenage star, LaMelo Ball passes the ball during an Illawarra Hawks NBL training session at The Snakepit on August 21, 2019 in Wollongong, Australia. (Photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 22: (L-R) NBL Chief Executive Jeremy Loeliger, LaMelo Ball of the Illawarra Hawks and RJ Hampton of the New Zealand Breakers pose for a portrait during a NBL media opportunity at The Blackman on August 22, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Kelly Defina/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 22: (L-R) LaMelo Ball of the Illawarra Hawks (R) and RJ Hampton of the New Zealand Breakers speak to media during a NBL media opportunity at The Blackman on August 22, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Kelly Defina/Getty Images)
PERTH, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 11: LaMelo Ball of the Hawks drives to the basket during the round two NBL match between the Perth Wildcats and the Illawarra Hawks at RAC Arena on October 11, 2019 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 19: Ben Madgen of the Phoenix drives to the basket under pressure from LaMelo Ball of the Hawks during the round three NBL match between the South East Melbourne Phoenix and the Illawarra Hawks on October 19, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Kelly Defina/Getty Images)
AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 24: Lamelo Ball of Illawarra (L) and RJ Hampton of the Breakers (R) during the round four NBL match between the New Zealand Breakers and the Illawarra Hawks at Spark Arena on October 24, 2019 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA - NOVEMBER 03: Lamelo Ball of the Hawks looks down court during the round five NBL match between the Illawarra Hawks and the Brisbane Bullets at AIS Arena on November 03, 2019 in Canberra, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)
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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 that will eventually show all when it airs. 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.