Since the Ball family’s initial rise to fame, they have been a walking media sensation, so much so that the family now has its own television show — it was the only realistic course of action given the world we inhabit after all.
I’m not here to discuss my opinion of LaVar Ball as a whole, neither am I here to discuss any one of his three children. The subject matter of my concern is the release of LaMelo Ball’s signature shoe the MB1s, which will retail at a whopping $395.
Still a junior at Chino Hills High School, LaMelo becomes the first high schooler to have a signature shoe. While LaVar’s choice to release the MB1s stands to make Big Baller Brand and LaMelo pioneers in the shoe industry, this was an ill-advised decision on all fronts which stands to negatively affect the youngest sibling and endanger his college career before it begins.
The NCAA has a strict policy when it comes to athletes receiving money directly correlated with their participation in athletics. According to NCAA spokesperson Emily James, “Generally speaking, a college athlete or prospect paid for use of their athletics reputation or ability risks their future eligibility in the sport.”
Now, LaMelo’s situation isn’t black and white. As of right now, the guard still has two more years of athletic eligibility in high school. Since he’s still in high school, he is not yet operating under the shadow of the NCAA, despite having verbally committed to UCLA. The NCAA only has the ability to monitor his actions once he officially signs a letter of intent.
There’s also the fact that Adam Silver, the commissioner of the NBA, has reportedly been reconsidering the league’s stance that prospective players must be one year removed from high school. Should the NBA re-allow prospects to declare for the draft right out of high school in the time before LaMelo graduates high school, the Ball family won’t have to worry about LaMelo’s collegiate eligibility as he can leap right past the NCAA’s amateurism code of conduct and straight into the realm of professionalism.
But, as it stands, the NBA’s one-year-removed rule remains intact, meaning LaMelo’s only realistic route lies in playing with the Bruins two years down the line. If the shoes are still on store shelves, his eligibility may be compromised.
Should the NCAA deem the signature shoe exploit as LaVar giving his LaVar a little spending money in a strict father-to-son manner, the NCAA may let it slide. If, on the other hand, the NCAA views the situation as LaMelo profiting off his own image, issues may arise.
Regardless of what decision the NCAA arrives at in two years, this entire decision reeks of pure irresponsibility in the pursuit of capital and fame on LaVar’s part. With Lonzo recently having played at UCLA and LiAngelo currently enrolled, LaVar must have known the way in which the NCAA operates. It’s the reason Lonzo’s shoe dropped once he was no longer affiliated with the program and the reason LiAngelo currently is the only member of the family without a signature shoe to his name.
LaVar knew every step of the way that releasing a shoe in LaMelo’s name would create a conflict with the NCAA’s current code of ethics, but he made the decision anyhow, prioritizing LaMelo’s off-the-court brand over on-the-court performance. His response to the decision? “If he (LaMelo) can’t play, then he can’t play.”In doing so, LaVar has essentially robbed LaMelo of his ability to forge his own path to the pros. If the release of the shoe interferes with LaMelo’s ability to play for UCLA two years down the road and he’s forced to play overseas, that responsibility will fall solely on his father.
This decision, because of the potential eligibility and economic ramifications, is not one I would leave in the hands of LaMelo. That isn’t a knock on LaMelo’s intelligence or overall ability to grasp what is at stake, but no one should expect a 16-year-old high school junior to make such a choice.
That’s where LaVar should have stepped in, to make a decision not as the head of a company looking to exploit the hype of a blue-chip prospect for economic gain, but as a father looking out for his son’s long-term best interest. LaVar chose the former and now his son’s future, both collegiate and professional, hangs in the balance.