Friday, May 24, 2024

THE 30 PLAYERS WHO DEFINED SLAM’S 30 YEARS: The Ball Brothers



For 3 a long time we’ve lined many wonderful basketball characters, however some stand above the remaining—not solely due to their on-court expertise (although these are at all times related), however due to how they influenced and proceed to affect basketball tradition, and thus influenced SLAM. In the meantime, SLAM has additionally modified these gamers’ lives in varied methods, as we’ve documented their careers with traditional covers, legendary pictures, wonderful tales, compelling movies and extra. 

We compiled a gaggle of people (programming observe: 30 entries, not 30 folks whole) who imply one thing particular to SLAM and to our viewers. Learn the full record right here and order your copy of SLAM 248, the place this record was initially revealed, right here.


The whole thing of 2017 belonged to the Ball household. Nobody got here anyplace shut within the basketball universe when it got here to media protection and fanfare. And equally, no media firm got here anyplace near the entry and belief with the household that SLAM acquired, and the end result was a complete lot of unimaginable content material.   

When the fam determined they needed to take an unconventional route and problem the established order, it was SLAM they known as to completely break every of their historic bulletins—from launching their very own signature sneakers to a first-of-its-kind semi-pro league. And whereas these occurred in 2017 and 2018, it was technically in 2016 when SLAM and the Ball household first launched into the wild journey. 

Within the spring of 2016, proper after Chino Hills Excessive College (led by senior Lonzo Ball, junior LiAngelo Ball and freshman LaMelo Ball) went undefeated with a 35-0 document and was ranked No. 1 within the nation, we took a cross-country journey to sunny California to provide the household’s first main journal shoot. We did some stills on the college of their highschool uniforms after which some stills at their dwelling in…Large Baller Model merch. This was nearly a full 12 months earlier than BBB would grow to be a sizzling matter of dialogue. A bit of sprinkle of foreshadowing.  

A number of months later, we reconnected for a enjoyable YouTube video titled “Christmas Day with the Ball Household.” It was the truth present earlier than the truth present, primarily, and helped show the enjoyable however aggressive personalities of not solely the brothers but in addition their dad and mom, Tina and LaVar. It’s amassed near 13.5 million views on YouTube alone, making it SLAM’s most watched unique content material video of all time; and, FWIW, it has considerably extra views than any standalone unique piece from lots of our rivals. 

After which got here spring of 2017, when Lonzo, probably the most talked-about prospect in that 12 months’s NBA draft, introduced with SLAM completely that he was going to maintain it within the household, turning down a conventional sneaker endorsement deal to launch his personal signature sneaker with BBB. The momentous announcement went viral, in fact, simply the No. 1 trending matter on Twitter that day, and the primary of many bulletins that SLAM helped break with the household. 

A few months later, simply 48 hours after the 2017 NBA Draft, we did our first cowl shoot with the brothers at their dwelling: Zo carrying his new Lakers uniform, Gelo donning the UCLA colours and Melo with the Chino Hills threads. LaVar guest-wrote the duvet story. WATTBA.

After which, two months later, we returned to Chino Hills to shoot one other announcement. This time, LaMelo was changing into the primary HS participant ever to launch his personal signature sneaker at simply 16 years previous. The video and pictures (together with Melo’s well-known Lamborghini) from the shoot are without end etched in hoops historical past.

The next 12 months, LaVar determined to launch his personal skilled league for HS gamers, the Junior Basketball Affiliation, a historic endeavor that paid HS youngsters to hoop across the US and embark on a tour all through Europe. LaMelo and LiAngelo each joined, and similar to the opposite Ball household bulletins that SLAM broke, it did numbers, as each sports activities speak present joined in on the dialog. In collaboration with the household, we additionally introduced LaMelo’s choice to return to HS within the US later that 12 months, when he joined SPIRE Academy in Ohio. 

All these unique movies and bulletins apart, we’ve shot a number of different covers as effectively—LaMelo has given us time for 2 solo covers prior to now 4 years. And we’ve additionally performed some cool merch collabs with LaMelo’s LaFrancé model over the previous 12 months.  

SLAM’s distinctive relationship with the Ball household has grown and developed repeatedly, similar to the relations’ particular person careers. In some ways, our journey collectively looks like a becoming pairing. We each worth household, loyalty and the fearlessness to do issues in your personal distinctive means.  

An argument could possibly be made that lots of these historic bulletins helped pave the best way for immediately’s HS panorama, which supplies energy to student-athletes like by no means earlier than. For one, the household deciding to launch their very own model and revenue off their title, picture and likeness (NIL)—regardless that it risked LaMelo’s (and Lonzo’s) eligibility to play in faculty—helped drive the dialog round youngsters being allowed to earn money with out dropping faculty eligibility. In the present day, due to new NIL insurance policies, highschool youngsters are allowed to do the identical issues that price LaMelo the chance to play faculty ball. Equally, LaVar’s JBA league drove dialog across the want for HS youngsters to have  different choices to the normal highschool basketball expertise, and lo and behold, there are actually quite a few leagues that supply to pay highschool gamers.

The Ball household’s revolutionary journey has led to loads of dialog and even planted seeds for brand new alternatives that weren’t there for HS youngsters on the time. SLAM is simply glad to have performed a small half in all of it. 


Portrait by Atiba Jefferson.



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