LaMelo Ball shoes have always been wild! Whether he played in Nike, Adidas, or in his own brand, LaMelo’s shoes have always been sleek and flashy, just one more way to stand out on the court. And this might be Melo’s greatest attribute as a player and celebrity: he stands out. He has that “it” factor that draws people in and makes them take notice of him. The fact is that there really isn’t anyone quite like LaMelo Ball.
LaMelo has one of the most unique origin stories of any NBA player. LaMelo has basically been in the spotlight since the age of 15, with nearly every minute of every day documented and scrutinized for Facebook Watch’s reality show, “Ball in the Family’‘. He is the first reality star turned pro hoop star ever. And surprisingly, he’s handled the whole fame thing pretty well.
On December 16, 2021 LaMelo took a huge step in his sneaker career, launching his first signature shoe with a major brand, the MB.01 from Puma. In 2022, LaMelo released his second signature sneaker, the Puma MB.02. To celebrate these accomplishments we’ll take a look back and review Melo’s swaggy sneaker history!
Table of Contents
- LaMelo Ball Shoes: Chino Hills
- LaMelo and the Big Baller Brand
- LaMelo Ball Shoes: Lithuania, the JBL and Spire institute
- LaMelo Ball shoes: Illawarra Hawks
- LaMelo Ball Shoes: Puma and the NBA
- LaMelo Ball Shoes: Puma Signatures
LaMelo Ball Shoes: Chino Hills
In case you’ve been living in a cave for the past six years or so, LaMelo Ball is the youngest of LaVar Ball’s children. His brothers are Lonzo Ball of the Chicago Bulls and LiAngelo Ball of the Greensboro Swarm, the Hornets G-League team. Together they are one of the most famous and notorious families in the sporting world. The three brothers and their father became household names in 2016, when Chino Hills won a state championship on the backs of the three brothers, cheered on by the boisterous support of their father.
That Chino Hills team is widely regarded as one of the best high school basketball teams in US history, and a very young LaMelo was a big factor in their success.
In his freshman season, Ball played point guard on a stacked Chino Hills roster that, aside from the Ball brothers, also included their cousin Andre Ball, who currently plays for Pepperdine, and Onyeka Okongwu of the Atlanta Hawks. LaMelo shared MaxPreps National Freshman of the Year honors with Okongwu after averaging 16.4 points and 3.8 assists per game during that perfect season for Chino Hills.
At the time, Chino Hills was an Adidas school. So naturally LaMelo laced up the three stripes that season. Melo reached for guard shoes such as the Adidas Dame 2, the Adidas CrazyLight Boost 2015, the Adidas J Wall 2 and primarily, the Adidas Harden Vol.01.
Adidas Harden Vol.01
Adidas Dame 2
Adidas CrazyLight Boost 2015
LaMelo continued his outstanding play during his sophomore season at Chino Hills. With Lonzo Ball moving on to play for UCLA, LaMelo ran the show.
LaMelo set Instagram on fire in December of 2016, when he knocked down a half court three after telling his defender he was going to do so.
That season he also dropped 92 points against Los Osos high school, the second-highest, single-game point score in California high school history. LaMelo was accused of cherry picking in that game, but 92 points is impressive regardless.
Chino Hills would also suffer their first loss in 60 games. The L came at the hands of the mighty Oak Hill Academy. Chino Hills didn’t have the same success that year without Lonzo, but LaMelo would finish the season averaging 26.7 points and almost 10 assists per game, and was named to the MaxPreps Sophomore All-American first team.
On court, LaMelo was still lacing up his array of Adidas shoes. Off the court, though, LaMelo seemed to have an affinity for Jordans – specifically the Jordan 4.
Things were going well for LaMelo basketball-wise, but life away from the court was about to become INSANE.
LaMelo and the Big Baller Brand
In April of 2016, LaVar Ball launched the infamous Big Baller Brand. At its inception, the company sold only apparel including screen-printed T-shirts, shorts and sweatshirts with their iconic triple B branding.
A little over a year later, LaVar set his sights on landing a sneaker deal for his three sons. And, in typical LaVar Ball fashion, his sights were ambitious to say the least. LaVar wanted one billion dollars for his sons’ sneaker deal. That’s right, a billion with a capital “B”! Ball told USA Today. “That’s our number, a billion, straight out of the gate. And you don’t even have to give it to me all up front. Give us $100 mil over 10 years.”
This sparked a wave of controversy across the sneaker world. Nike was particularly displeased with LaVar’s negotiation tactics. Nike exec George Raveling even called LaVar the “worst thing to happen to basketball in the last hundred years“. Of course LaVar was none too pleased with those comments.
The two brands went at each other hard for a couple days, but in the end two things were made crystal clear. No son of LaVar’s was going to get a sneaker deal with a major brand any time soon. Big Baller Brand would have to create their own signature shoes if they weren’t going to be reasonable.
In retrospect, all of this had to be a clever marketing ploy because in May, just weeks after feuding with Nike, Big Baller Brand unveiled Lonzo’s first signature shoe. And what a surprise! LaMelo also got his first signature that August, the LaMelo 1. What a coincidence!
Big Baller Brand LaMelo 1
The BBB LaMelo 1 was quickly compared to the Brand Black Rare Metal, and with good reason. It was actually the Brand Black design team that helped create all of BBB’s shoes.
BBB LaMelo 1 vs Brand Black Rare Metal
The LaMelo 1 supposedly carried different tech to the Rare Metals, but if they were anything alike, the LaMelo 1 would have been a great on-court performance shoe. The Rare Metal featured the same beastly blade traction pattern, plush Jetlon Evolution foam cushioning and an awesome jaccard upper. It’s hard to imagine that LaMelo would have rocked them for so long if they were trash.
The shoe cost a whopping $395, which was a bit nuts, especially considering the Rare Metal retailed for $110. To make matters worse, when asked about the hefty price tag of Big Baller Brand shoes, LaVar tweeted that “If you can’t afford the ZO2’s, you’re NOT a BIG BALLER!”.
The ZO2s retailed for $495. He was asked about the infamous tweet several times in different interviews, but LaVar never backed down from his stance.
With the LaMelo 1, Melo became the youngest player to ever get his own signature shoe. But before he was able to get them on court, his young career suffered another big shift.
LaMelo Ball Shoes: Lithuania, the JBL and Spire institute
On October 2, 2017, before his junior season, LaMelo was pulled out of Chino Hills high school to be homeschooled. LaVar Ball disapproved of newly-appointed head coach Dennis Latimore and the school’s administration.
On December 7, LaMelo officially signed with a pro agent, Harrison Gaines, aiming to play professionally overseas alongside his brother LiAngelo. This would mean forgoing college for LaMelo, which was a risky move that could have jeopardized his chances of making it to the NBA.
On December 11, 2017 LaMelo and LiAngelo both signed with BC Pirenai in Lithuania and Ball reportedly became the youngest American to ever sign a professional basketball contract in Europe. It should come as no surprise that LaMelo struggled greatly. The culture shock and the language barrier would have been enough to throw anyone off their game. Throw in the fact that LaMelo was just a teenager and had to play against full grown professional European hoopers and it was a disaster in the making.
Lithuania is a hotbed of European basketball talent. They produce serious, technically-sound ball players and Lithuanian coaches have a reputation for being very hard-nosed and strict. The Ball family arrived in Lithuania thinking they were going to run the joint, but that simply wasn’t going to happen. This added to their general disappointment and frustration.
On January 13, 2018, Ball made his professional debut, going scoreless in just five minutes of play. However, LaMelo did show some flashes of his brilliance while in Lithuania. On February 4th, he scored a season-high 19 points, with four three-pointers and six assists, in a loss to Žalgiris, the best team in the country. That type of performance against a Euro League level team was no easy feat.
LaMelo finished the regular season averaging just 6.5 points and 2.4 assists, shooting 26.8 percent from the field in 12.8 minutes per game. For a bit of context, wunderkind Ricky Rubio at the age of 16 was the youngest pro in ACB (Spain’s pro league) history. He averaged just 8 minutes over 14 games, scoring just 2.6 points per game, 1 rebound per game and not even one assist. Even with these seemingly dismal numbers, he was still considered to be a prodigy and a future NBA star. Nothing is handed to young players in European pro leagues. Unlike LaMelo, Ricky didn’t have to deal with cameras shoved in his face after every bad game. So, in my opinion, hats off to LaMelo for doing as well as he did.
After suffering an injury during an exhibition game, and with LaVar feuding with head coach Virginijus Šeškus over his kid’s playing time, Ball left the team and headed back home.
During his stint in Lithuania, LaMelo played exclusively in his signature shoe. He primarily rocked an all-white or an all-black version of the shoe, but we did see some other cool colorways along the way.
Big Baller Brand LaMelo 1
Upon returning to the states, LaMelo signed with a team in Los Angeles. But, it wasn’t the Lakers. On May 4, 2018, Melo signed with the Los Angeles Ballers, in the JBA. What the hell is the JBA, you may ask? Well, it was a league (that lasted only one season), formed by enterprising ol’ LaVar, that was supposed to be an alternative to college basketball. In his debut, LaMelo posted a triple-double with 40 points, 16 rebounds, 10 assists and three steals.
LaMelo played in eight regular season games and averaged a triple-double with 39.6 points, 14.6 rebounds and 11.5 assists per game. In the playoffs, he dropped 55 points, 16 rebounds and seven assists on the New York Ballers. LaMelo led the team to the JBA championship over the Seattle Ballers.
At the end of the season, LaMelo was named to the JBA USA team that was created to face several European teams on an international tour. LaMelo infamously got into a scuffle during a game against BC Dzūkija, a Lithuanian team, on the tour. Despite the fight, LaMelo showcased the range of skills he could potentially take to the league.
While playing in the JBA, LaMelo stuck with his signature shoe and started breaking out more flashy colorways.
Big Baller Band LaMelo 1 Cotton Candy
Big Baller Band LaMelo 1 Colorways
While with the JBA US Select team, LaMelo also broke out his second signature shoe, the MB1. The MB1 didn’t receive the attention the LaMelo 1 did, nor did LaMelo rock them that often, but they were still technically LaMelo’s second signature shoe before reaching the NBA.
Much like LiAngelo’s BBB G3 and Lonzo’s BBB ZO2.19, the MB1 featured the same midsole and outsole tooling. The tooling offered a Jetlon-like cushioned ride with great grip on the hardwood.
Big Baller Brand MB1
From the JBA, LaMelo headed to Ohio, where he joined the SPIRE institute and Academy. At this point, LaMelo had skipped his junior year completely and part of his senior year of high school. SPIRE is a prep school in Geneva, Ohio. LaMelo was allowed to play because they competed outside the jurisdiction of the Ohio High School Athletic Association. Because SPIRE technically had a pro player on their team, a number of prominent high school teams canceled their match-ups with the academy. SPIRE was also removed from the Hoophall Classic tournament when organizers refused to pay a $10,000 request from the Ball family in order for LaMelo to play.
Through all of the drama, LaMelo seemed oblivious and continued to improve and work on his game. During his first game at SPIRE, Melo dropped 20 points, 13 assists and five rebounds in a 96–84 win over The Hill School. On March 7, 2019, he racked up 41 points, including 29 in the first half, in a 102–67 victory over Hillcrest Prep North. And all though he carried his team to the finals, and was named the season’s MVP, he was ruled ineligible for the McDonald’s All-American Game due to his professional experience.
At SPIRE, LaMelo went back to his trusty LaMelo 1’s and was also seen rocking the Kyrie Lows. The Kyrie Lows were not the greatest on-court performers, but you can see why LaMelo gravitated to a Kyrie shoe. SPIRE was a Nike school at the time, and LaMelo clearly has an affinity for bright pink kicks.
Kyrie 4 Lows
LaMelo Ball shoes: Illawarra Hawks
Two very important events occurred in 2019 for LaMelo. In March, Big Baller Brand imploded. Lonzo Ball, who was playing for the Lakers, severed ties with BBB’s Co-Founder Alan Foster for not being able to account for the whereabouts of roughly $1.5 million from Ball’s personal and business accounts. Alan Foster, LaVar’s longtime friend, persuaded LaVar to create a shoe and apparel company featuring his three basketball-playing sons in lieu of Lonzo going the traditional route of signing a guaranteed multimillion-dollar endorsement deal offered by the likes of Nike and Adidas. Foster, who helped foster the BBB brand, took a 16.3% slice of the ownership pie for his trouble.
After the news broke, Lonzo posted a picture on his Instagram that hinted at his joining forces with Nike by using the brand’s advertisement tagline. Lonzo’s manager also posted a video of him throwing a pair of Big Baller Brand sneakers in the trash quoting, “#dumpurmerch”. LaMelo and LiAngelo followed suit and distanced themselves from the Big Baller Brand. So no more BBB shoes for LaMelo.
The second big event was much more pleasant. On June 17, 2019, Ball signed a two-year contract, including an NBA out clause, with the Illawarra Hawks of the Australian National Basketball League (NBL). This was a huge step for LaMelo’s career. The NBL is a notoriously physical and tough league that would help LaMelo get accustomed to a more physical style of play before entering the NBA.
LaMelo moved to Australia with his former SPIRE Institute coach, Jermaine Jackson, who became his manager. In his first game, LaMelo tallied 12 points, 10 rebounds and five assists on 6-of-17 shooting in a loss to the Brisbane Bullets. But it was an impressive showing.
In the beginning, LaMelo was playing behind ex-NBA PG Aaron Brooks. When Brooks went down with a season-ending injury, Ball took over the starting role and never looked back. He turned in two consecutive triple doubles, the only player in league history to record consecutive triple doubles.
LaMelo played a total of twelve games with the Hawks. He averaged 17 points, 7.4 rebounds and 6.8 assists per game while shooting 37.7 percent from the field. He was also named the NBL rookie of the year. After he suffered a foot injury, he decided to part ways with the Hawks with his sights set on the NBA.
After cutting ties with BBB, LaMelo switched to Nike during his season with the Hawks and his go-to shoe was the KD 12. The KD 12 was a great choice, as it was one of the best on-court sneakers of 2019. The shoe introduced the full-length Zoom Air Strobel which is so popular nowadays and features great traction, amazing cushioning, excellent fit and lockdown.
While playing in Australia LaMelo played in several different colorways of the KD 12, as well as in the KD 4, the Nike BB Adapt, the PG 1 and what LaMelo himself has called his favorite shoe of all time, the Kobe 8.
KD12, KD 4, PG 1 and Kobe 8
Nike BB Adapt
All of these shoes are designed for bigger guards like LaMelo, who need a nice mix of court-feel and responsiveness alongside some effective impact protection. You can see a trend in LaMelo’s footwear leaning towards Mids over Lows, perhaps because of the injuries he sustained on his way to the NBA.
Speaking of the NBA….
LaMelo Ball Shoes: Puma and the NBA
LaMelo entered the 2020 Draft as one of the most coveted prospects, but also as one of the biggest question marks. LaMelo had undoubtedly displayed his vast array of skills but scouts and experts were concerned that he had never put them to the test against “serious competition”.
He must have impressed someone in Charlotte, because the Hornets used their 3rd overall pick to snag the youngest of the Ball brothers.
Before the Draft, LaMelo signed a lucrative endorsement deal with PUMA for a reported $100 Milion, which was a great fit. Puma was in need of a “face of the brand” and LaMelo received the backing of a heavy-hitter in the industry with a more youthful and edgy vibe than the top brands on the market.
So, going into the 2020-21 season, LaMelo was vibin’. He had a very strong showing in the preseason, and everyone was excited to see what he could do in league play. But the start of the season took a disappointing turn.
In his first game, he scored 0 points, 3 assists and had 3 turnovers and played limited minutes, which was surprising after his successful preseason. But it only took the Hornets three games to realize that they needed LaMelo at the helm. In just his 4th game as a pro, LaMelo put up 22 points, 5 assists and 3 rebounds against Luka Doncic’s Dallas Mavericks. He quickly changed the Hornet’s style of play, implementing his brand of face-paced transition basketball.
And the highlights kept on coming. On January 9th, he broke Lonzo’s record becoming the youngest player to record a triple double in a game. He broke his wrist in March, which of course was a lowlight, but he recovered ahead of schedule and missed only 21 games, returning without missing a step. He finished the year averaging 15.7 ppg, 6 apg and 5.9 rpg and was named Rookie of the Year.
The Hornets were not amazing, but they played well enough to make it to the NBA Play-in Tournament, where they were eliminated by the Indiana Pacers.
LaMelo had been rocking the Puma RS Dreamer in Puma’s ad campaigns. But for LaMelo’s kicks on court that season, his go-to shoe was surprisingly the Puma Court Rider. Surprisingly, because this was the year Puma put out the brand’s best hoop shoe to date (and that year’s best overall hoop shoe), the Puma Clyde All Pro.
Puma RS Dreamer
The Puma Clyde All Pro seemed like the obvious choice for Melo. The shoe features an amazing fit, hall of fame traction, and the perfect cushion for a big guard like LaMelo. This version of Puma’s ProFoam+ gives a ton of impact protection without sacrificing court feel. They are eerily similar to the Kobe 9, which LaMelo should have enjoyed. Puma gave him some awesome PE colorways, Puma even gave him a mid-top version that no one other player got! He did play in them for several games, but his go-to was definitely the Court Rider.
Puma Clyde All Pro
Puma Clyde All Pro – Mache Customs
The Court Rider is similar to a Kyrie shoe, with less impact protection and more court feel. The shoe plays very low to the ground and features grippy, high-abrasion rubber. Perfect for a light shifty guard, but considering LaMelo’s size, it makes sense to choose something with a bit more cushion to it. But to each his own. LaMelo played in an exclusive, modified version of the Court Rider with a higher cut, and got an all teal PE that was one of the cleanest shoes on an NBA court that season.
Puma Court Rider
LaMelo Ball Shoes: Puma Signatures
We are currently about 27 games into the 2021-22 season, but LaMelo is already on track for his first All-Star appearance averaging 20 ppg, 8.3 apg, 7.7 rpg and 1.9 steals. LaMelo has established himself as one of the most exciting young players in the league and is putting the Hornets back on the map, possibly eying a run at playoffs, as the team is currently ranked 8th in the East.
This season LaMelo received his first signature shoe with Puma, the Puma MB.01. The MB.01 has already created significant waves across the sneakerhead-verse and it is being touted by many as the best first signature shoe ever! Of course, this is based on aesthetics alone, as they officially drop on the 16th of December.
The shoe definitely has the potential of being a beast on-court, based on the announced tech specs alone. According to Puma, LaMelo was involved in every step of the shoe’s creation, which would explain the higher cut and design details. The shoe features a 3D-printed upper combined with what Puma calls “monomesh”, which allows the shoe to breathe and maintain a lightweight build. The cushion set-up consists of full-length Nitro Foam, similar to what was seen on the Puma Nitro Fusion. The Nitro Fusion was a disappointing shoe, but, it’s best feature was the Nitro Foam set up. Nitro Foam is similar to Adidas Bounce Foam and provides a good amount of impact protection without skimping on responsiveness.
We have seen only two colorways of the MB.01 so far – a flashy, all-red version and a more classic, Hornets colorway in black and teal. It is definitely a great-looking shoe! Judging by looks alone, it might be up there as one of the coolest-looking first signatures ever. And Puma has promised us that a lot more fun colorways are on the way.
The Puma MB.02 has yet to see significant on-court action from LaMelo Ball. He has only appeared in three games where he averaged 19.3 PPG, 7.0 AST, and 3.7 RPG. Those aren’t bad numbers, but they aren’t amazing either. It’s right on par with his career averages so far. He suffered an ankle injury early into the season, and we hope he gets back in action soon.
While the Puma MB.02 looks similar to the Puma MB.01, there are key differences that we consider improvements. The first and most important one is the addition of nitrogen-infused foam into their heel and forefoot, much like how Nike would do their Zoom Air setups. The midsole is still compression-molded EVA foam. This setup ensures that there’s still lots of court feel with added impact protection. The torsion bar has also been beefed up for better support.
Aesthetically, the shoe takes inspiration from one of LaMelo’s tattoos once again. This time around, they mimic his chest tattoo with the huge wings. If you want to learn more about the design and thought process of the shoe, you can check out our interview with its designer, Jeremy Sallee, here.
That wraps up LaMelo’s sneaker history for now. Melo is only two years into his career, so we will update our content whenever LaMelo drops highlights and new kicks on the court.
Let us know what you think. Did we leave anything out? Is there another shoe that you’d put on the list? We look forward to hearing from you on Twitter, Instagram, or our Discord community.