Lonzo and LaMelo Ball are set to square off for the first time against one another on Friday as the Pelicans host the Hornets.
Even if bother brothers say otherwise, Friday’s contest against the New Orleans Pelicans and Charlotte Hornets will not be simply another game.
For the first time in five years, Lonzo and LaMelo Ball will share the court in a competitive basketball game and, for the first time ever in that setting, they won’t be on the same team. And even if the country will be watching the nationally-televised game on ESPN, both brothers still have their focus on getting the win.
“I think it’s going to be a lot of fun,” Lonzo said. “It’s our first time matching up in a real game. But I think it’s a good opportunity for us to get back on track. We lost the last two so we want to turn it around and it starts tomorrow.”
“I feel like if anyone’s feeling something, I feel like it’s probably going to be my family,” LaMelo added. “I think they’re probably going to be the ones getting all the joy out of it and stuff. Me and him are going out there both trying to get a win for our team.”
A lot has changed in those five years since Lonzo and LaMelo were joined by LiAngelo – as well as Hawks forward Onyeka Okongwu – at Chino Hills. Back then, the brothers and father LaVar had only begun to creep into the national media picture after leading the Huskies to a perfect 35-0 season and a state title.
“It was the first time that we all got to play together in high school, the only time we got to play together in high school, and we made the most of it,” Lonzo said. “It was just fun time just all around being with them before I took off on my journey and they want their ways as well.”
Those journeys have been vastly different. Lonzo took the traditional route of one year of college at UCLA before being drafted by the Lakers in 2017. LaMelo made stops in Lithuania, back in American in Ohio and overseas again in Australia before being drafted this fall.
Through it all, the brothers remained close, focused on making sure the time and effort they and their father put in wasn’t for naught.
“Everybody has to find their own way,” Lonzo said. “Obviously, I went the more traditional route. He didn’t but at the end of the day, we both ended up where we wanted to be. Like I say, hard work definitely pays off. No matter who you are, you put your mind to something, you can do it. I really believe that. So, I mean, it worked for me, it worked for him. So that’s what I would tell, you know, kids today growing up as well.
Over the last year-plus, Lonzo has provided LaMelo both a listening ear and guiding light. As Lonzo continued his NBA journey in a new city in New Orleans ahead of last season, LaMelo began his journey to the NBA with a one-season stop in the NBL with the Illawarra Hawks.
Having gone through much of what LaMelo was going through, Lonzo mentored him not just through his first season but in the pre-draft process as well, offering as much insight as he could. While Lonzo said the two haven’t talked as much this season due to the condensed NBA schedule, he said it’s “all love” when the two connect now.
“It’s definitely great,” LaMelo said of being able to learn from Lonzo. “I can learn from his mistakes and just learn from him. He can give me advice. He’s been through it. It’s pretty much like already having the answers to the test.”
LaMelo has passed the test with flying colors so far this season. Through his first eight games off the bench, he’s averaging 12.1 points, 5.1 rebounds and 4.9 assists while shooting 36.1% from three. While Lonzo has struggled with his shot early in the season, he’s still averaging 13.4 points, 4.6 rebounds and 4.6 assists and is second on the team in minutes played.
“I think it just shows that all the hard work paid off,” Lonzo said. “We’re really close. We grew up together doing the same thing even though he’s a lot younger than I am. It’s a good thing to see all the hard work pay off that my dad put in with us…and all the hills we were running, all the times we were playing on a court and it ended up getting us both to where we wanted to go.”
A lot has changed in the five years since they last shared the court. Between Lonzo and LaMelo being in the NBA, Big Baller Brand’s flash-in-a-pan success and the family’s reality series on Facebook, the family has global recognition.
But for all that’s changed, the goals have remained the same. After leaning on each other to get to their current spots, there won’t be trash talk on Friday regardless of the result.
“The goals and everything always been the same,” LaMelo said. “We know that we were going to go the league and we want to be successful in the league and be Hall of Famers so that’s what we work for now.
“It’s all love. That’s my brother. I mean, we roll together. My pops had us real close. We spent every day together. We talk to each other all the time now. He’s still my brother at the end of the day.”