How The Ball Brothers Are Changing Basketball

The Ball brothers (left to right), LiAngelo, Lonzo, and LaMelo. (Monica Almeida/The New York Times)

40 minutes outside Los Angeles sits the city of Chino Hills, hometown of the Ball family who are changing the way that basketball is played. There are the brothers, Lonzo, LiAngelo, and LaMelo, the mom, Tina, and the father, LaVar Ball who is the mastermind behind it all. Anyone who has seen the brothers play may feel like they are watching the NBA All-Star Game rather than high school basketball, as one man chucks the ball from one end of the court to the other into the hands of an open teammate who effortlessly lays it up. Or when one of the brothers casually walks up the court and launches the ball from the half court line, resulting in a swish.

“My thing is, a bad shot is a shot you don’t practice” said LaVar. “If you practice shooting from 30, 40 feet, that [can be] a good shot. It’s better to shoot a 30-footer with nobody in your face and go through your technique and your form, as opposed to shooting right on the 3-point line with a hand in your face.”

With the guidance of their father, the brothers have produced an unconventional, yet effective brand of basketball. They are always looking to run and score on transition, play full-court, pressure defense, and shoot open shots (“open” for them meaning anywhere they want on the court). This type of fast paced, run and gun basketball would not be possible if not for the combination of each brother’s unique talents and skill sets, which we shall break down.

Lonzo Ball

Lonzo, the oldest is currently playing for UCLA where he is dominating the competition and projected to go 2nd overall in the upcoming NBA draft. He brought the run and gun style of play from Chino Hills to UCLA and has led them to a 19-3 season where they currently rank 3rd in the Pac-12 Conference. At 6’6” he is a long, pass-first point guard, and what separates him from other pass-first guards like Rondo and Rubio is that he has unlimited range.

While he does have an unorthodox shot, it is effective as he is shooting 43% from deep this season. Lonzo has average athleticism and slashing ability but his terrific ball IQ and incredible passing ability make up for it, and are perhaps what can ultimately make him the next big thing.

LiAngelo Ball

Out of the 3 brothers, the middle child LiAngelo gets the most criticism. People question his ability to play at the next level because of his limited athleticism and size at the small forward position. While he is a bit undersized, standing at 6’6” LiAngelo may be the best scorer out of his brothers. Gelo has put up multiple 50+ point games for Chino Hills this year and has a season high of 72 points.

LiAngelo’s primary job on the team is to score, however he has shown ability to deliver quick and accurate passes. While he may not be the quickest or the flashiest, LiAngelo is great at using his body to get anywhere he wants to on the court. The bigs are too slow and the guards are too small for him. LiAngelo is built like a football player and if he can keep capitalizing on these mismatches, he will make some serious noise at the next level.

LaMelo Ball

And last we have the youngest, Melo. This kid is something else. He has the most swagger out of the brothers and plays more like Lonzo than LiAngelo. He really loves that full court football pass that Lonzo is using at UCLA and can hit his target with speed and precision. LaMelo has good handles, is super crafty with the ball, and can finish a variety of ways around the basket. On top of all this, like Lonzo he is not afraid to pull up from anywhere. LaMelo just radiates confidence on the court and it will be exciting to see what he can do for Chino Hills next season with his brother LiAngelo leaving to play at UCLA.

Some describe the Ball brothers’ playing style similar to what the Golden State Warriors are currently doing in the NBA. However, their father stated that “the boys play faster than the Golden State Warriors.” “This ain’t no Steph Curry,” LaVar insists. “This is the Ball boys — the new breed.” Like the Warriors or not, the Ball brothers are special and they are changing basketball as we know it.


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