LaMelo Ball’s strange path to the NBA continued on Thursday, when he announced he bought his former Australian basketball team the Illwara Hawks.
The potential top-overall pick in the 2020 NBA draft averaged 17 points, seven assists and 7.5 rebounds in 12 games with the Hawks. But with his NBA career set to begin, Ball decided to help save his old team experiencing financial struggles.
Ball made the purchase with former Illwara manager Jermain Jackson.
“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.’”
At just the age of 18, Ball already has multiple revenue streams that helped make this deal possible. He was reportedly paid approximately $78,000 by the Hawks; but also makes money through streams of Ball in the Family on Facebook and endorsements from his 5.2 million instagram followers as well as a shoe deal with father’s company Big Baller Brand.
Jackson said he thinks Ball’s ownership will help recruit players to the team, especially from America.
When high school kids hear LaMelo owns the team, they will want to come,” Jackson said. “They’ll know they will be taken care of. We’re going to put the organization on steroids, building it into a program that guys want to play for. I’m in touch with several former NBA GMs that want to go there to help out and high-level coaches that won every championship you can imagine.”
The final figure for how much the team set Ball back has not been released, but other teams in the league have been valued between $5 and $10 million.
LaMelo Ball is the youngest of three basketball brothers. The oldest (Lonzo) plays in the NBA with the New Orleans Pelicans; while the middle brother LiAngleo plays for Oklahoma City Blue in the NBA G-league. While LaMelo is yet to play in the NBA, he’ll enter the league with a “high school,” experience all his own.
He spent his freshman and sophomore years at Chino Hills High School in Chino Hills, California. As a freshman in 2015 he averaged 16.4 points per game as Chino Hills won the California state title. His scoring and assist numbers jumped in his sophomore year to 26.7 points and almost 10 assists per contest.
He also made national headlines with a 92-point single-game outburst.
But his junior year things began to change for the Ball family. Lonzo was already in the NBA, but LiAngelo got into some trouble early into his freshman year at UCLA. LiAngelo and two teammates found themselves detained by Chinese police after shoplifting on a team preseason trip.
Between LiAngelo’s trouble in China and wanting to get LaMelo in on the family shoe deal; the meddlesome father Lavar Ball orchestrated a deal for the brothers to play professionally for the Lithuanian team Vytautas Prienai.
After a year in Europe Ball returned to the United States, where he played in and won the Junior Basketball Association started by his father before signing with the Illwara Hawks of the National Basketball League. While he produced on the court, he played just 12 games before missing the remainder of the season with a foot injury.