As the SPIRE Institute (Geneva, Ohio) basketball team prepares to take part in the first-ever Big Baller Beatdown at Marshall County high school in Benton, Ky., the brand’s literal and figurative patriarch has come forward with a pretty remarkable and callous demand behind the scenes: Anyone hoping to film the SPIRE Institute team, which includes his son LaMelo, must pay $3,500 per game.
SPIRE is scheduled to play two games at the tournament, which is put together and benefits the Big Baller Brand alone. Big Baller Sports allegedly already receives $5,000 per LaMelo Ball game that is streamed on FloSports according to reporting from Adam Zagoria in Forbes. Zagoria was also the media member who released the details of the media credential process for the Big Baller Beatdown, as you can see below.
Naturally, these ad hoc rights fees further erode any hope of future collegiate competition LaMelo might have clung to. There’s no artifice that the video fee is for anyone other than LaMelo Ball; if SPIRE was playing with Rocket Watts (a legitimate 4-star Michigan State commit) and Robert Bobroczky, they wouldn’t charge $500 for filming rights, let alone the $3,500-$5,000 range they’re pulling down now.
The fee structure raises more questions about SPIRE Institute and complements the reasons laid out earlier this week about why we have not ranked the undefeated SPIRE team in the USA TODAY Super 25; SPIRE can get away with things like writing over broadcast fees to Big Baller Brand precisely because the school is not a member of the Ohio High School Athletic Association, and it can demand those fees because it’s team includes a professional athlete of some notoriety in LaMelo Ball.
None of this is illegal, of course, but it’s all a seamy slice of American pie served up across a sport that fancies itself as authentically amateur.