OF all the National Basketball League (NBL) young guns, the top one from the season was clearly LaMelo Ball. He only played 12 games, but in every stop, Australian basketball fans flooded the stadium just to get a glimpse of the 6’7 point guard. Were the fans buying those tickets just so they could say they witnessed the pinnacle of a hype train? Sure, that was part of it. Australians do not get to see that many international stars, and they weren’t going to pass on seeing a potential NBA superstar at only 18-years-old.
But Ball’s season was much more than that. It took a lot of courage to turn down an NCAA scholarship and prove his worth against quality opposition. Players that typically were not fond of the attention he was getting and were determined to ball out in front of the millions watching around the world. But Ball proved something truly great, this season. Most importantly Ball proved it, not his undying fan base, not his reality TV show and not his outgoing father. What did he prove? To believe the hype.
He came into the season as a 17-year-old and left averaging 17 points per game – less than one point away from being the Illawarra Hawks’ leading scorer. But it is not how much he scored but how he scored that speaks to Ball’s greatness. Snapping ankles, step back threes, posterising dunks, flashy layups – Ball’s season highlights reel is proof of the skill he has at such a young age, but what makes Ball’s games ‘must watch’ material is that he is so much more than just a scorer. Seven rebounds, seven assists, Ball does it all.
Including setting a NBL record for the youngest player to notch a triple double. That is crazy for a kid that young – but not as crazy as doing it again the very next game. These were 32-point and 25-point games – not your casual ‘just got enough in each category to set a record’ type of night. If it was not for his foot injury that ended his season prematurely, who knows what other records he could have broken. It’s not often a player can come into a league, play half the season, and be remembered as a record setter, a social media influencer and an all time leader in helping to grow the league of the NBL. This season surmounted Ball’s legacy as an NBL legend.