LaMelo Ball may be the first pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, but the 18-year-old point guard apparently has bigger ambitions than merely starting his NBA career. Ball has purchased the Illwara Hawks, the Australia-based team in the NBL he played with this past season, according to ESPN.
Ball made the purchase with his manager Jermaine Jackson, a former player who competed professionally between 1999-2012 with several stints in the NBA. ESPN reports that financial issues were threatening the Hawks before Ball and Jackson’s purchase.
Ball is set to enter the NBA draft after playing 13 games with the Hawks before a season-ending foot injury. The 6’6 guard was already famous before he arrived in Australia via the league’s Next Stars program. Ball first gained notoriety as a freshman at Chino Hills high school where he played alongside his older brothers Lonzo and LiAngelo. Ball left the school ahead of his junior year in a highly-publicized move to turn pro in Lithuania, before returning to American high school ball at Ohio’s Spire Academy as a senior.
Ball’s performance in the NBL was strong enough to have him projected as the No. 1 overall pick in our most recent mock draft.
Ball’s career has already been a wild ride before he ever plays an NBA game, and buying a pro team in Australia is his most audacious move yet. How did this come to happen? This is everything we know about Ball’s purchase of his former club.
How much do NBL teams go for?
While we don’t know how much Ball bought the team for yet, there are several reports from recent years about the values of other teams in the league.
Brisbane Bullets were on the market for between $5 million and $10 million, according to Financial Review. Melbourne United was reportedly sold for $10 million.
The entire league, according to Financial Review, sold for $7 million to Larry Kestelman in 2015.
How much money has Ball made so far?
Though Ball is only 18 years old, he’s already had several revenue streams for a few years.
His NBL contract doesn’t appear to be public, but ESPN has previously reported players were paid at least $78K through the NextStars program. Ball has also starred in his family’s Ball in the Family
Ball is also about to make a lot more money once he enters the NBA.
How much is Ball looking to make in the NBA?
Zion Williamson earned a guaranteed $44 million as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft with the safe assumption that the two option years on the back end of his deal are picked up. The No. 5 pick in last year’s draft, Darius Garland, has about $29 million guaranteed over four years.
As an expected top-five pick, Ball can anticipate his first NBA deal will somewhere within that range. But his real money-making opportunity early in his career could be in endorsements.
Nike reportedly has interest in signing Ball to an endorsement deal. An unnamed sneaker company offered Ball $100 million and a private jet, according to USA Today. It’s too soon to know what Ball’s first major endorsement deal will an apparel company will look like, but his name recognition and fame should mean he sees a bigger deal than most rookies get.
Ball also recently bought a race horse
Remember when Ball bought a race horse that he named LaMelo? Just thought we’d mention that.
Ball hopes to continue bringing top American prospects to Australia
Ball wasn’t the only former top high school recruit who chose to head to the NBL rather than play college basketball. R.J. Hampton was another five-star prospect who signed a contract with the New Zealand Breakers and is expected to be a lottery pick in the 2020 draft.
Ball and Jackson are betting that American players will want to follow Ball’s path through Australia before arriving in the NBA. This is what Jackson told ESPN:
“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.”
Given how quickly NBA franchises have jumped in value in recent years, it’s possible Ball and Jackson got a good deal on a long-term investment if Ball’s presence can help the league take off. This is just another chapter in Ball’s unprecedented journey to the NBA as a teenager.