On Thursday, the Big Baller Brand released the LaMelo Ball-inspired LM1. In the video reveal of the new shoes, LaMelo showcases a Lamborghini, which it turns out isn’t just for the video, it’s his personal car.
It didn’t take long for people to start wondering how LaMelo could retain amateur eligibility with his family’s brand capitalizing on his name and likeness in advertising.
It’s a valid question, but it’s not necessarily as straightforward a decision as one might think. LaVar Ball insisted the family had looked into CIF regulations before moving forward with the $395 LM1 shoe, confident that the way they are handling the shoe will protect LaMelo’s eligibility.
The case with the NCAA is significantly less straightforward. As noted by our partners at For The Win, LaMelo’s ability to play at UCLA likely comes down to the clauses in NCAA bylaw 126.96.36.199:
188.8.131.52 Modeling and Other Nonathletically Related Promotional Activities.
An individual may accept remuneration for or permit the use of his or her name or picture to advertise or promote the sale or use of a commercial product or service without jeopardizing his or her eligibility to participate in intercollegiate athletics only if all of the following conditions apply: (Revised: 1/14/97, 4/29/04, 1/8/07 effective 8/1/07)
(a) The individual became involved in such activities for reasons independent of athletics ability;
(b) No reference is made in these activities to the individual’s involvement in intercollegiate athletics; (Revised: 1/18/14 effective 8/1/14)
(c) The individual’s remuneration under such circumstances is at a rate commensurate with the individual’s skills and experience as a model or performer and is not based in any way on the individual’s athletics ability or reputation.
184.108.40.206.1 Exceptions. The individual’s eligibility will not be affected, provided the individual: (Revised: 1/18/14 effective 8/1/14)
(a) Meets the conditions set forth in Bylaw 220.127.116.11; or (Revised: 1/18/14 effective 8/1/14)
(b) Takes appropriate steps upon becoming a student-athlete to retract permission for the use of his or her name or picture and ceases receipt of any remuneration for such an arrangement.
It’s not hard to see how LaMelo’s teenage endorsement of his own shoe could violate the tenets of the NCAA bylaws. However, by simply retracting the right of Big Baller Brand to use his name and likeness when he arrives at UCLA, LaMelo might make himself instantly eligible again.
It’s notable that BBB has shied away from using middle brother LiAngelo — now enrolled at UCLA — in absolutely anything in the brand’s roll out thus far. That’s conceivably an attempt to protect his eligibility in Westwood, and similar steps with LaMelo would likely have the same effect.
Then there’s a more nuanced and perhaps complicated defense: LaMelo Ball could justify his endorsements as being derived from his general celebrity status and the family’s subsequent reality television work. While basketball may have been a part of those efforts, there’s no question that LaVar Ball’s brash persona and marketing have had at least as large an impact on the family’s rise as any athletic performance.
If LaMelo Ball is deemed a celebrity independent of basketball, that the NCAA wouldn’t be allowed to penalize him for capitalizing on that fame. It’s a strange, tail-wagging-the-dog technicality, but it could very well work to keep LaMelo eligible when he arrives at UCLA.
For now, perhaps he should focus more on driving his Lamborghini. After all, if a 16-year-old is going to push a Lambo, he better make sure he does it safely and without legal incident.