It’s not exactly an occasion that Ball has had marked on his calendar.
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“I mean, nah,” Ball told reporters when asked if he was excited to play against James. “I grew up a little different. Not really on basketball like that. So, not really.”
The youngest Ball brother said he doesn’t look up to James like many players from his generation. Instead, his role model is his dad, LaVar, who Lakers fans know well from Lonzo Ball’s time in triple and gold.
“It was my Pops,” Ball said when asked if he had a role model. “So, I was big on family and stuff like that. Not really with the basketball.”
LeBron James, LaMelo Ball Among Favorites for Awards
Both James and Ball are having stellar seasons. James is among the MVP contenders at age 36 in his 18th NBA season, averaging 25.5 points, 8.1 rebounds and 8 assists.
Ball is the heavy frontrunner for Rookie of the Year after being selected with the No. 3 overall pick by Charlotte. Ball leads all rookies in points (15.8 points), assists (6.3), rebounds (6.0) and steals (1.6) per game.
Ball grew up in Chino Hills, California, but won’t be making his debut at Staples Center in front of family and friends due to restrictions in place due to the COVID-19. The Lakers are not allowing fans in the building.
“Obviously you want your family to come see you, and then growing up, they always watched me, so it would kind of be like going in the past,” Ball said. “I know my people. They’ll be cool watching it on TV, too. We really like chilling at the house, more with the comfortable stuff other than being out. Like, I honestly would rather watch a game at home, chilling, than going to one.”
LaVar Ball, LeBron James Have History
James has some history with the Ball family, having played with LaMelo’s brother, Lonzo, for a year in Los Angeles. And his war of words with LaVar goes back to before the first Ball brother was drafted.
“You got LeBron—it’s going to be hard for his kids because they are going to look at them like, ‘You got to be just like your dad,'” Ball said in 2017. “And after a while, that pressure starts sitting on you like, ‘Why do I got to be just like him? What can’t I just be me?’ And then they are going to be like, ‘Aw, you’re soft. You’re not that good.’ Because the expectation is very, very high.”
James delivered a stern warning to LaVar to keep his family out of his trash talk tirades.
“Keep my kids’ name out of your mouth; keep my family out of your mouth,” James told ESPN. “This is dad to dad. It’s a problem now.”
Lonzo Ball was sent to New Orleans as part of the deal for Anthony Davis. The former No. 2 overall pick is having a career-year scoring-wise, with 14.2 points per game to go with 4.2 rebounds and 5.5 assists.