The last time brothers Lonzo and LaMelo Ball played in a game together they won a state championship with Chino Hills High. They had never played in a regulation game against each other at any level, until Friday night.
Kid brother LaMelo and the Charlotte Hornets got the best of Lonzo and the host New Orleans Pelicans by rallying from a 12-point halftime deficit to win 118-110.
LaMelo finished one assist shy of a triple-double with 12 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists. He only made four of 12 shots, including one of five from three-point range, from the field. He converted three of four free throws. He had one steal and three turnovers.
Lonzo, who did not score in the second half, finished with five points, two rebounds and three assists while making only two of eight shots from the field, including one of seven from deep. He had one blocked shot, one steal and two turnovers.
The brothers guarded each other at times, with LaMelo driving for a layup over Lonzo, who promptly answered with his only three-pointer in the game. LaMelo would later make a step-back three-pointer against Lonzo near the end of the third quarter.
The eldest and youngest of three boys who starred at Chino Hills High took separate paths to the NBA — Lonzo after one season at UCLA, LaMelo via professional stops in Lithuania and Australia plus a year in between at SPIRE Academy in Ohio. They became the first pair of brothers selected in the top three of their draft class: Lonzo by the Lakers at No. 2 in 2017 and LaMelo by the Charlotte Hornets at No. 3 this fall.
LaMelo hit the step-back three over Lonzo 👌 pic.twitter.com/S9xVxbMP8B
Gordon Hayward led Charlotte (4-5) with 26 points. Miles Bridges finished with 20 points and Devonte Graham added 17 for the Hornets, who didn’t take their first lead until the fourth quarter, when they outscored New Orleans 36-23.
Zion Williamson had 26 points and Josh Hart had 19 for the Pelicans (4-5), who’ve lost three in a row, all at home. Brandon Ingram added 17 points but was three-of-10 shooting. JJ Redick also scored 17 points for New Orleans.
LaMelo, 19, grew up playing games against his older brothers on a concrete court in the backyard of their parents’ home.
“Nobody took it easy on me — fighting, scrapping, falling on concrete,” LaMelo said. “Parents would get scared when their kids went back there. It was something you had to witness for real.”
That is where the Ball brothers learned to compete — and first dreamed of playing in the NBA.
There have been been several sets of brothers that have played against each other through the years. Currently there are nine sets of siblings in the NBA: Steph and Seth Curry; Giannis, Thanasis and Kostas Antetokounmpo; Jrue, Aaron and Justin Holiday (who made history when they were on the court at the same time in a game); Tre and Tyus Jones; Brook and Robin Lopez; Marcus and Markieff Morris; Juancho and Willy Hernangomez; Caleb and Cody Martin, and Jalen and Jaden McDaniels.
But the battle of the Ball brothers is one of the most high-profile sibling matchups ever.
They have a big social media following, in part because of their outspoken father, LaVar. They garnered national attention on the basketball court when Lonzo, then a senior, paired with middle brother LiAngelo and then-freshman LaMelo to help Chino Hills High go 35-0 and win the CIF Division 1 state title in 2016.
“At the end of the day we both ended up where we wanted to be,” Lonzo said. “So the hard work definitely pays off. If you put your mind to it I really think you can do anything.”
Lonzo said he almost never played LaMelo one-on-one while growing up because he was nearly four years older than his kid brother and physically superior at the time.
Those games were mainly reserved for LiAngelo, who is one year younger than Lonzo and who had a brief stint with the Detroit Pistons before being cut before the start of this season.
Pelicans point guard Lonzo Ball discusses playing against younger brother LaMelo, a rookie point guard for the Charlotte Hornets, when they were younger.
“We pretty much played three-on-three every day,” Lonzo said. “We always went at it. And I think you see that in [LaMelo’s] game. He’s not afraid of anyone and he has always played up [in age] and it has always been that way for him.”
Both players wear No. 2 jerseys and the 6-foot-6 Lonzo, who is averaging 13.4 points and 4.6 assists, is no longer physically superior to 6-8 LaMelo. The rookie is averaging 11.8 points and 4.9 assists.
Associated Press and internet reports contributed to this story.
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