Ball Brothers Keeping It All In The Family

It’s a pretty big deal to have a star athlete in the Family, it’s fantastic to have two, but now many families can boast three stars under the same roof. That’s certainly not your typical American Family, but there’s nothing ordinary about the Balls. Lonzo, LiAngelo, and LaMelo Ball are children of LaVar and Tina Ball, and they’ve been garnering national attention for almost a decade. These premier players are living the dream, and the only way is up for this baller family. Here we’ll be taking an in-depth look into what makes the boys tick, their journey to superstardom, and whether they can all play in the NBA, fulfilling their exuberant father’s prediction. So without further ado, let’s Ball!

Who are the Ball Brothers?

The ball brothers are three premier players born in Anaheim, California, part of the Los Angeles metropolitan area. Lonzo Ball is the starting point guard of the New Orleans Pelicans in the National Basketball Association (NBA). In comparison, the second Ball brother is LiAngelo, a free agent waiting for a shot in the NBA. The third Ball brother is LaMelo, the superstar rookie point guard on the Charlotte Hornets team in the NBA. These brothers have a mere four years between them, and they’ve played on numerous teams together, coached mainly by their dad LaVar, and achieving remarkable success.

The Ball Brothers are amongst the most famous basketball players on Instagram, as they have over ten million followers when you merge their accounts. At the same time, they regularly rack up millions of likes for pictures and views for videos. The brothers are fierce competitors and are known to out winning above any other thing, as they have the laurels to back it up. The Ball Brothers prefer to let their talking be done on the court, and they’ve brought significant success to most teams they’ve played for before the NBA dream. So what’s the grand dream?

The Dream

The Ball Brothers grew up idolizing stars like Lebron James (Lonzo’s former teammate), Michael Jordan (LaMelo’s current team owner), and Jason Kidd (for point guard reasons). As such, the boys have always had the NBA in their sights, and it’s pretty awesome to see that two of them are currently living the dream. Lonzo is presently playing point guard on a team with Brandon Ingram, the most improved player in the NBA, and has a confident Zion Williamson who needs no introduction. LaMelo, on the other hand, is a runaway favorite to win the rookie of the year honor, thanks to his sparkling debut season as a member of the Charlotte Hornets (who you probably know is owned by the GOAT).

However, LiAngelo, the middle child, hasn’t found it so lucky yet. First off was the China incident, which looking back, seemed to set the talented shooting guard on the wrong foot. Then the coronavirus pandemic ruined his rookie G league season, where he ought to have shown his worth. Also, recently he had a spell at the Detroit Pistons that did not pan out so well. However, this premier player isn’t giving up, as he’s super eager to join his brothers on the flashy courts of the best basketball league in the world.

Parting Thoughts

LaVar Ball repeatedly said that his boys will end up as three of the greatest NBA players ever to do it. That might have sounded as just him being LaVar, but it’s looking like these premier players are well on their way. Lonzo Ball has improved his jump shot, he’s playing more confidently than ever, and he’s on an improving team. LiAngelo is getting his act back together, and a couple of groups are showing interest. LaMelo Ball is simply a walking highlight reel and one of the league’s top draws. These premier players are keeping it in the Family, and they’re sure doing their city proud. The sky’s merely the beginning for the ball brothers, as they look to make the NBA Dream an astonishing reality.

Premier Players Article by Olaoluwa Ajayi

Pistol Pete Maravich’s Play Amongst The Greatest

When thinking of sporting records that will never be broken, there are a few that come to mind instantly. Usain Bolt running a 9.58-second 100-meter dash would be one of those. Wilt Chamberlain dropping 100 points in an NBA game would be another. Cal Ripken Jr. playing in 2,632 consecutive games – a streak that began in 1982 and lasted until 1998 – would be a third. The general population should have some idea about these well-known records.

However, one premier player feels like he may not get his due when it comes to his legendary achievement. That player is ‘Pistol’ Pete Maravich, and his record is his insane scoring average as a college basketball player in the late 1960s.

The second-highest scorer in the history of D1 Men’s Basketball is Freeman Williams. Williams played for Portland State from the 1974-75 season through til the 1977-78 season. In this time, Williams accounted for 3,249 points, and he maintained a scoring average of over 30 points per game in his final three seasons at the school. It is a stunningly impressive number – until you look at what Maravich did at LSU.

‘Pistol’ Pete went for 3,667 points with the Tigers. This is a total of over 400 points more than Williams, or the equivalent of 13 or 14 more games, with Williams scoring at his over 30 point average. If that isn’t crazy enough, Maravich put up his 3,667 points as a premier player from the 1967-68 season through the 1969-70 season. That means that Maravich scored more points than anyone in the history of the sport, even though he was only able to play for three years because, at the time, first-year players had to play on the freshman team at their school and weren’t eligible for varsity play.

Maravich’s averages were as follows:

  • 1967-68 – 43.8 ppg
  • 1968-69 – 44.2 ppg
  • 1969-70 – 44.5 ppg

Maravich never had a single collegiate season where he averaged under 43.8 POINTS PER GAME. Adding to the insanity of this accomplishment is that Maravich played when there was no three-point line. He also played when there was no shot clock so opposing teams could kill the ball in games as and when they wanted. In other words, his scores were kept lower by the rules in place at the time. Given his shooting stroke and with more possessions per contest – plus an extra year of varsity eligibility – it isn’t unreasonable to think that Maravich could have scored over 5,000 points with a different set of rules in place. Former LSU coach Dale Brown once charted every shot ‘Pistol’ Pete made at LSU and said his career average would have been a video game level 57 points per game if the three-point line was drawn in.

Some of Maravich’s game totals were absurd too. He scored at least 60 points in a game four times – against Vanderbilt (61), Kentucky (64), Tulane (66), and Alabama (69) – with no other player ever having more than two such games against other D1 opponents. His score of 69 points as a senior against Alabama is the second-most in history behind Kevin Bradshaw, who scored 72 points for U.S. International against Loyola Marymount in 1991.

Maravich was one of the youngest ever inductees into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Part of this is due to a knee injury that saw him play just 658 games in 10 NBA seasons, but even in that time – and constantly battling with the knee problem – he became a five-time NBA All-Star and was the NBA scoring champion in 1977 when he averaged 31.1 points per game. A fascinating snapshot of what this premier player could have been comes from the NBA installing the three-point line in Maravich’s final injury-ravaged season. He was able to take just 15 shots from behind the arc, but he hit 10 of them, meaning he had a career three-point percentage of 66.7%.

Perhaps the best creative player in the game’s history, Maravich passed away at just 40-years-old in 1988. This means that the legend didn’t make it to the age of the internet and social media – where it is easy to be remembered – but this premier player and his sheer ability to score the basketball was on par with anyone to ever play the game.

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Makur Passes On Basketball Powerhouse Colleges To Play At Howard

For decades the route to the NBA for premier players in high school basketball has been pretty clear. Attend a blue blood program for as little time as a possible – or skip college entirely if you were a Kobe or a LeBron and were in the era when immediate eligibility was an option – and declare for the draft at the first opportunity.

Recently, however, there has been something of a change in how this process works. It started with high schoolers not interested in attending college using their one-year post-high school and before NBA Draft eligibility to play professionally. This began with players leaving the country – Terrance Ferguson, RJ Hampton and LaMelo Ball all went to Australia – or choosing to simply take a year off and train while knowing that they won’t be hurting their draft stock one bit.

These moves and decisions were ones players chose for themselves and for their own good. There is obviously nothing wrong with that, but earlier this month a 5-star prospect made a college decision that was about so much more than self-interest and improving his draft stock. On Friday, July 3, Makur Maker announced that he was passing on the likes of UCLA, Kansas and Kentucky to attend school at Howard University.

It is hard to put this premier player’s choice of college into any type of recent context. Howard – one of the historically black colleges and universities (HBCU) – does not get commitments from a player of Makur’s talent and potential. The same can be said for any of the HBCUs. A top-50 player committing to play in the MEAC has been unheard of for over half a century and in the times we currently live the choice of Makur to go to Howard couldn’t feel any more culturally significant.

Makur – an athlete who is from South Sudan in Central Africa – said the following in a recent interview published by The Undefeated. “The reason behind my decision? I dare to be different, and I always consider myself to be a leader. I want to change the current culture and climate that has kept five-star athletes like myself from viewing HBCUs as a viable choice. I have no idea why it’s been over 40 years that not even one five-star basketball player in the United States has decided to play basketball at an HBCU. But I do know that, in this Black Lives Matter movement that’s empowered and assembled many different people across the country and the world, that it won’t be another 40 years until it happens again.”

Maker is a legit 7-footer who is the No. 17 overall prospect in the class of 2021 per the 247Sports Composite Rankings. Seeing a player of that level pledge to Howard shook the very foundations of what we know about college basketball – and perhaps even college sports in general – to its core. The next question is if this is a one-off as Maker makes a stand that no other premier players follow, or if it becomes a trend where 4-star and 5-star black athletes choose to spend a year at a HBCU to immerse in cultural diversity and raise the profiles of such schools on a national level.

It will take a few recruiting cycles to see if there is any real change in play here. Maker – as good as he is as a player – is not a significant voice on the AAU circuit that younger players look up to. For that we would turn to class of 2023 prospect Mikey Williams, a player with the world at his feet who is also said to be considering a one year stint at a HBCU before collecting NBA money. The 15-year-old tweeted about attending a HBCU even before Maker took the plunge and his presence on the floor of a HBCU in the winter of 2023 would absolutely mean that the world of college basketball for premier players has taken a sudden and socially significant turn.

 

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NBA Game of Horse Reminder of Classic Commercial

In a world that still needs sports – but that looks increasingly like the wait for the major ones to come back will be longer than we want – it is always interesting to hear a little good news.

The NFL Draft will be going ahead as planned (albeit virtually), the NRL rugby competition in Australia – a county that has not been hit as hard as many others at this point because of its geographical isolation – is looking to get back to something by the beginning of June, and – amazingly – we are about to see some of the premier players in basketball put on a televised HORSE challenge on ESPN.

It is an idea so crazy that it just might work and – if it does – it needs to become a weekly thing until we get the rest of our sports back.

The headliners for the competition are Chris Paul, Trae Young, and Tamika Catchings, a 2020 Hall of Fame inductee. Odds are that everyone reading this has played HORSE at some point in their life, but the basic concept is that if someone makes a shot you have to replicate that shot to avoid picking up a letter. When you have missed enough shots to spell out the world HORSE, you are done.

One catch for this competition is that dunking is not allowed, something that seems fair with Zach LaVine in the field and given his ability to do trick dunks that the rest of the field would find problematic. The hope for ESPN has to be that along with the standard shots, they have a daredevil or two in the field who will be trying their best to recreate the iconic Michael Jordan and Larry Bird McDonald’s commercial on their network.

Speaking of Bird and Jordan, how cool would it be to see this concept expanded to some sort of legends version with those two and a number of other premier players of the game’s history competing. Sports may have stopped, but ingenuity like this is what makes America great and long may this type of innovation continue in the sporting world.

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Premier Player Ionescu Voted AP Player of The Year

You don’t see many players dominate a sport like Oregon senior guard Sabrina Ionescu was able to in the Covid-19 shortened 2019-20 women’s college basketball season. Ionescu was named as the unanimous Associated Press Women’s Basketball Player of the Year, only the second player since the award was first given in 1995 to sweep all 30 votes after Breanna Stewart of UConn in 2016.

Ionescu also became just the eighth player to be named three times as an AP All-American after a career with the Ducks where she shattered records. This premier player became the first player in NCAA history – male or female – to post a career triple-double mark of over 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 1,000 assists.

It is this ability to do anything on the court to help her team win that characterized Ionescu’s tenure with the Ducks. There are many that believe Oregon would have been the favorites for the NCAA Championship this season if the games had been played, with Ionescu averaging 17.5 points, 9.1 assists, and 8.6 rebounds per game after returning to school to chase the NCAA title that had eluded her.

Oregon, with a 31-2 record, was the Pac-12 regular season and tournament champions when the season was cancelled. Head coach Kelly Graves called Sabrina “A transcendent basketball player” and “The ultimate leader.” These are the traits that Ionescu showed this year.

This premier player wasn’t happy with just being good enough at certain aspects of the game, she wanted to be the best in the country. That will to win – to know when to shoot and when to pass in a purely unselfish way – is what set her apart. Add in a drive and a work ethic that the late Kobe Bryant would have been proud of and you can see why Ionescu is the favorite to be taken with the No. 1 pick in the 2020 WNBA Draft this spring.

Ionescu is the prototypical basketball player. After completing her college chapter, she will be one WNBA player that young players can look up to and learn from with her ability to do literally anything she wants on the court.

Article by Premier Players

NBA All-Star Game Shows The Power of Sports, Athletes

The 2020 NBA All-Star Game was always going to be about Kobe Bryant. This is exactly how it should be after one of the premier players of any sport, anywhere, tragically passes away weeks before the biggest talents of the game gather for a showdown.

However, the 2020 NBA All-Star Game was also a show of the power of basketball and the power of sports in general.  This was a real game down the stretch – more on that in a moment – and not the free scoring shotfest that the All-Star game has sometimes been in recent years.

There was no more fitting a tribute to Bryant – a man who thought winning the exhibition All-Star Game was as important as a playoff win – than the fact this game was played (in the fourth quarter at least) like it really mattered. It was a game that raised $500,000 and counting for local charities based on which team won each quarter, and it was the first game where the NBA has used a novel scoring system down the stretch that its premier players seemed to all embrace instantaneously as the fourth quarter went on.

This scoring system – known as the Elam system – set the final quarter to be a race to 157. The score was calculated by adding 24 (Kobe’s number) to the score that the leading team had entering the fourth quarter. It is a scoring system that literally anyone who has ever played a team sport, where points are counted, can endorse. How many games of flag football between friends have been drifting along until the magic call of “first to five wins” is made.  At that point, everyone playing becomes ultra-competitive and the game matters.

That is what happened in this NBA All-Star Game as the teams ramped up down the stretch to the point that coaches were challenging replays and players were caring about every foul. Kobe would have LOVED this environment and he would have thrived in the pressure of such a game. It helped that the Chicago crowd were into the contest from the minute the tributes to the great Laker ended, finishing by barely sitting down from the middle of the third quarter onwards.

Sometimes we forget how sports – and certain athletes – can bring people together on a local, national, and global scale. Sunday night in Chicago was all the proof we needed to remind us of that.

Article by Premier Players

Kobe’s Skills On The Court Drove All Parts of His Life

There is way too much to be said about Kobe Bryant and his legacy that we could ever hope to capture in one article. That is why this piece is going to look at Kobe as a player and athlete only, not touching his amazing transition into life as a coach, father, and family man that occurred before his life was cut tragically short at the age of just 41 in a helicopter crash on Sunday morning.

There are many players in the sports we cover that are said to be premier players. Kobe was not just a premier player in his own time; he was one of the premier players in the history of his sport. He was a premier player in the city of Los Angeles, a city where he would be on the Mount Rushmore of sports icons. He was a premier player who transcended his sport and became a household name around the world thanks to 20 seasons of highlights, determination, and excellence.

His legacy is a complicated one, but his playing style is one that we will likely never see again. In this era of load management, no player will eat the minutes that Kobe did throughout his career. This is a player that once played to the point of tearing his Achilles tendon, but still went to the free-throw line to finish his play with two successful shots, such was his will to win and his dedication to making that happen.

Kobe took shots that kids today would be benched for trying. He retired leading the league (historically) in just one single stat. That stat was the number of missed shots over a career. While that should be a negative, it’s not. That’s because the toughness of Kobe made him want to take those shots, knowing that every shot not taken was two (or three) points that would never be made.

You can’t be a shot-selection player and score 60 points in your final game. You can’t be that and put up the second most points ever in a single contest with his 81-point explosion against the Raptors in 2006. You can’t be that and win five NBA titles, be an 18-time All-Star and a 15 time All-NBA selection. You can’t be that and be feared each and every night by every opponent you face.

Kobe had the footwork, the stroke, and the competitive fire to take himself to the very top. That so many of the premier players in the NBA today cite Kobe as their inspiration says more about his legacy than anything that could be put to paper. The world is a worse place without Kobe Bryant in it, but we must push forward and strive for success every day to the best of our ability. After all, that is what Kobe would do.

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Curry Makes Biggest Impact Off The Basketball Court

We all know that Stephen Curry is one of the premier players on a basketball court in the world. The six-time All-Star and two-time NBA MVP winner has proven he is a player who will not rest on his laurels in his quest to keep getting better.

Curry is a player known for getting back into the gym early in the offseason. He has that drive and desire that all the greats find in their genetic make-up; that will to win and the need to improve on their skill set year after year to present new problems and new issues for defenders.

The three-time NBA champion knows that at 31-years-old he must keep pushing to get better. That is how Curry went from a player who was expected, in some circles, to be nothing more than a spot-up shooter in the NBA, to a player who can win games on his own with his passing and quickness off of the dribble.

Curry, though, also picks up his inspiration and his skills around the sport in other ways. One of those ways is that this premier player of basketball also loves to challenge himself with a round of golf.

When news broke that Curry had made a seven-figure donation to Howard University to bring back golf – and Division 1 golf at that – to its sports offerings, it raised a few eyebrows. Curry attended school at Davidson before making his NBA name on the West Coast, so news of him giving money to a small college in D.C. didn’t make much sense.

Curry got the idea to restart the golf program after meeting a Howard student named Otis Ferguson who passed up on furthering his golfing career to attend Howard, a school that did not have a golf program at the time. Curry, intrigued by Ferguson and his life story, decided to bring the program back to life.

Curry played golf in high school, and fans often see him on the pro/am and celebrity golf scenes. Golf is a sport he cares about and one that has impacted his ability to be a premier player in basketball.

“Golf is a sport that has changed my life in ways that are less tangible, but just as impactful,” Curry said about the imminent donation in a press release. “It’s a discipline that challenges your mental wherewithal from patience to focus, and is impossible to truly master, so when you hear about these passionate student-athletes who have the talent but don’t have a fair shot at the game, it’s tough. I feel really honored to play a small role in the rich history of Howard University.”

This act of charity is not the first time Curry has supported others, and it will not be the last. He is making an impact in ways that people will not only remember him for his greatness on the court but his greatness as a person.

Best Ever In NBA Discussions Must Include Larry Bird

The debate around the best player ever in a sport will never be truly answered. Even comparing players of the same generation – Messi vs. Ronaldo, Brady vs. Manning – is difficult enough. So how do we look at two players from different eras and decide which of the two is the premier player?

When it comes to basketball, most of the debate around the best player ever focuses on Michael Jordan and LeBron James. They are seen as the 1a and the 1b of the game – in some order – with most people putting Jordan at the top due to his number of championships and the iconic ways he won games in an era where individual stars weren’t as prevalent as they are today.

There are some, a small minority based either in the 617 area code or in French Lick, Indiana, who will tell you that neither Mike nor ‘Bron is the premier player in basketball history. For those people, it is all about Larry Bird.

Larry Legend was a premier player. He’s talked about in mythical ways in some circles, even though his career in the NBA didn’t come to an end until the 90s. He, before LeBron, was widely regarded as the best small forward the game had ever seen. A player who could do it all on the court, and who always did so with a systematic style of play that belied his skillset.

Bird was a 12-time NBA All-Star, a nine-time All-NBA First Team selection, a three-time NBA Champion, and a three-time NBA Finals MVP. In addition to that stacked resume, Bird was voted the NBA MVP for three years in a row from 1984-1986. That means that for 36 consecutive months, – almost 1,100 days – there was (by popular opinion) no better in the game of basketball. Larry Bird was the premier player in the entire sport.

To see the value of Bird, you have to look past what Isaiah Thomas has coined the “winning plus” mindset. This school of thought – one that dominates the game today – is that merely winning is not good enough. Instead, you have to win with style and flash, you have to be an above the rim player who can be a SportsCenter highlight every night, and it is a mindset where only winning championships in the style of a Tim Duncan isn’t enough.

That is not to say that Bird wouldn’t have adapted. One look at his highlights on YouTube shows a player with a passing range that is unlike any small forward in the NBA today. That he was able to pass, dribble, and shoot his Celtics to three NBA Titles in an era where defenders could basically mug the attacking player is a testament to his otherworldly skill level. There is a school of thought that the greats could find their way to adapt and play in any era, with another school saying that if Bird’s Celtics had played in the Eastern Conference over the past decade, they would have made 10 NBA Finals trips due to Larry’s ability and work ethic.

Maybe the best way to put Bird’s career into perspective as one of the premier players of all time is too look at his scoring. Bird scored 21,791 NBA points, good for 24.3 points per game (while rebounding at a rate of 10.0 per game). This puts Bird 30th on the all-time scoring list. Bird also won the first-ever 3-point contest at an All-Star game. Even with those numbers, and that ability, Bird rarely practiced the outside shot as he played in an era where it was all about getting the ball inside.

If he played today, Larry Legend would be over 30,000 points without breaking a sweat. That is how the premier players in a sport cross generations and come into the conversation as the best to play their game and, based on that, no discussion about the best basketball player ever would be complete without the mention of Larry Bird.

Article by Premier Players, Inc.

NCAA vs. NBA: The battle for the top high school ballers

For the premier players looking to take their basketball careers to the next level, the path has always been pretty clearly defined.

Starting out shooting hoops with dad, a player would then slip into the junior ranks and play ball in local gyms and leagues. Next would come a jump to AAU and high school ball, with a player showcasing his skill set in tournaments at the regional, and even national, level to get scouted by college programs. Next would come a scholarship offer, and a player would decide to play anywhere between one and four years in college depending on skill level and ability to make a move to the NBA.

The one-and-done rule has always been a controversial one. It is a rule that some college coaches took to immediately, with John Calipari at Kentucky being the obvious example. Coach Cal deliberately goes after players who need just a single year of seasoning before entering the NBA, gambling that he can teach enough fundamentals and teamwork into what can primarily be seen as a bunch of one-year mercenaries to make Kentucky competitive every year. In fairness to Coach Cal, it works.

The threat to the college game was initially thought to be through the NBA. That is one of the reasons why this rule was adopted in the first place. We never got to see the likes of LeBron James or Kobe Bryant tear up the courts in college because they jumped ahead one level and went straight into the league.

For players of their skill, it was a beautiful thing. They were able to adapt to the game and now sit as two of the top 25 players that have ever played the game. For every LeBron and Kobe, however, countless other players made the mistake of trying to jump immediately to the NBA, only to see their careers fade out quicker than they would have with college seasoning.
College is not for everyone. This is especially true for a college athlete who has to balance studying with the demands of their sport. Top level college basketball is a grueling concept, with players traveling all over the country (and sometimes outside of it) to play in games, while still having to practice and maintain their lives.

That is why players are looking for other options. The latest player to do something a little different is Texas native RJ Hampton. Hampton is one of the premier players in the nation. He is the fifth-ranked prospect in the class of 2019, and until recently he had been expected to sign for Kansas, Memphis or Texas Tech. Instead, Hampton will spend 2019 playing for the New Zealand Breakers of the National Basketball League of Australia.
It is a fascinating decision for an 18-year-old to make. Hampton wants to follow in the steps of Luka Doncic, a player who was a professional at 14-years-old in Spain and who entered the NBA ready to compete at professional speed.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has already taken note of this trend. He wants the premier players to stay in America, and he is looking at ending the one-and-done rule by the 2022 draft to make this happen.  The big question is where does this leave the NCAA?

By opening the league up again, it is likely that we will never see the likes of a Zion Williamson, for example, playing in college. We want to see the premier players playing in college because college basketball is both a tradition and a fun sport to watch. Short of paying players, it is hard to see what the NCAA would do, but let’s hope that the game is not negatively impacted by players choosing other routes to their NBA dreams.

Article by Steve Wri