He’s certainly lived up to the hype he was always expected to be as a young basketball phenom growing up in Chino Hills.
LaMelo Ball, the youngest of the famous basketball Ball brothers and the No. 3-overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft by the Charlotte Hornets, was named the NBA’s Rookie of the Year Wednesday afternoon, becoming the third Hornets player in franchise history to win the top award for first-year players.
“It’s definitely feels great,” Ball said during Wednesday’s online press conference on nba.com. “It’s a blessing.”
Ball was the overwhelming winner of the Rookie of the Year award, receiving 84 first-place and 15 second-place votes from a worldwide panel of 99 sportswriters and broadcasters.
Minnesota Timberwolves shooting guard Anthony Edwards finished second and Sacramento Kings point guard Tyrese Haliburton was third in this year’s voting.
Ball became the NBA’s 69th Rookie of the Year since the award was first given during the 1952-53 season, is the fifth player from California to win honor, and is only the sixth player to win the award at age 19.
He joins Luka Doncic (2018-19), Andrew Wiggins (2014-15), Kyrie Irving (2011-12), Kevin Durant (2007-08) and LeBron James (2003-04) to win the award as a teenager.
Ball scored 15.7 points per game in 51 games this season.
He averaged 6.1 assists, 5.9 rebounds and 1.59 steals in an average of 28.8 minutes per game, becoming the seventh rookie since 1973-74 to average at least 15 points, six assists, five rebounds and 1.50 steals.
The 6-foot-6 point guard missed 21 games with a fractured wrist suffered March 20 at Staples Center in Los Angeles during the Hornets’ 125-99 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.
Many feared the injury would end his season, but just a few weeks after surgery, Ball returned to the Hornets' lineup May 1 and picked up right where he left off.
“I was pretty much working out every day, trying to get the wrist better with the training staff and everybody,” Ball said. “Pretty much from there on out whenever I felt when I was ready, I was back on the floor.”
The Hornets finished in 10th place in the NBA Eastern Conference standings and lost 144-117 to the Indiana Pacers in an NBA Play-In Tournament game, ending their season.
Ball earned consecutive Eastern Conference Player of the Month awards in December, January and February and became the youngest player in league history (19 years, 140 days) to record a triple-double on Jan. 9 with 22 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists against the Atlanta Hawks.
He led all rookies in steals and assists, ranked second in points and rebounds and was third in total points steals among all NBA rookies.
Ball had a season-high 34 points with eight assists and no turnovers on Feb. 5 against the Utah Jazz, finished the season with 17 20-point games, and had four games with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds or assists.
This year’s NBA Rookie of the Year award is Ball’s second such honor after he was named Rookie of the Year during the 2019-20 National Basketball League in Australia.
Ball was Chino Hills High’s point guard during the Huskies’ 2015-16 national championship undefeated season with older brothers Lonzo and LiAngelo Ball in addition to Onyeka Okongwu and Eli Scott.
Lonzo Ball is currently with the New Orleans Pelicans, Okongwu is a member of the Atlanta Hawks and Scott is a senior with the Loyola Marymount University men’s basketball team.
LaMelo Ball and Okongwu were named the 2015-16 Maxpreps National Freshmen of the Year, but LaMelo left Chino Hills High prior to his junior season to play professional in Lithuania and later with his father’s Junior Basketball Association.
LiAngelo and LaMelo Ball led the Los Angeles Ballers to the Junior Basketball Association championship in 2018, the only year the league was in existence.
Ball, and the Hornets, will begin the 2021-22 NBA season in October.
“Definitely next season, I want to come in with a little boost. I’m pretty much looking forward to next season right now,” Ball said. “That is why we are all working out for. Just trying to get better every day."