LaMelo Ball, the youngest of the Ball brothers, is expected to be a top five pick in this year's NBA Draft. He is also now the proud owner of the Australian basketball team he played for this past season.
You did read that correctly. Ball and his manager Jermaine Jackson told ESPN they had purchased the Illwara Hawks of the NBL. Jackson said Ball loved his time with the team so much he decided to buy it outright and would do everything he could to make it a successful program while remaining focused on his NBA career:
""Melo loves the Illawarra fans," Jackson told ESPN. "He loves that community. They opened their arms to him. They made us feel like we are at home. When we started hearing about the issues they were going through, we talked about it and decided, 'Let's own the team.' He is going to be locked into his NBA career, but we are going to hire the right people to oversee everything. He wants to create the best basketball program possible for that community there.""
Jackson believes Ball's ownership will help draw more players who want to follow his path to the NBA rather than enter the collegiate basketball realm. He also said he had several former NBA GMs interested in helping out, and he's been in contact with several "high-level coaches who have won every championship you can imagine," whatever that's supposed to mean.
Can't say I expected to see this headline come across the timeline, even in the strange times we find ourselves in. Then again, one would think the feeling of surprise when reading any Ball family story would have faded long ago.
Big picture, this is an interesting development for the future of alternative paths to professional basketball that exclude the NCAA. If Ball can turn the Hawks into even a semi-legitimate developmental team with some brand recognition, going abroad before leaping to the NBA turns from a long-shot pipe dream to a valid path to take.
Now that the Ball family officially owns a team, I can't wait to see what's next. Maybe LaVar should call James Dolan.