At this point, Lonzo Ball would probably have to lead the Lakers back to the playoffs to have any chance of living up to the hype. That's not necessarily his fault, but the expectations for his rookie campaign have become absolutely ridiculous, in part because the Ball family empire hasn't given us a moment to breathe in about six months.
Even the professionals are lining up to anoint Ball as the next big thing. The No. 2 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft landed at No. 63 on ESPN's annual NBA Rank list, which is notable as a raw ranking and in comparison to some big-name veterans. And there's really only one name on everyone's mind after looking at the list, and he's one of the most recognizable basketball players on the planet: Carmelo Anthony. He somehow landed one spot below Ball on ESPN's list.
Anthony has languished in purgatory for most of his time in New York, with Phil Jackson rather openly suggesting the team wanted to move on from him prior to the Zen Master parting ways with the Knicks. Still, his seniority has to count for something, and he has proven over almost 14 seasons that he has what it takes to put up numbers at the NBA level, if nothing else.
Ball may have had a successful season at UCLA, but defenses in the Pac-12 are not anything close to what he'll face during his pro career. So basketball fans laughed, screamed, and cried over ESPN's decision to rank Ball ahead of Anthony.
ESPN ranked Lonzo Ball higher than Carmelo lmfaooooooooo— sixerhive (@darienhoops) September 12, 2017
Lonzo Ball's name should not be in front of Carmelo's on any list. Mad disrespect to Melo— NY SPORTS (@AllNY_sports) September 12, 2017
Carmelo Anthony: 22.4 PPG last season— Mark Suleymanov (@TheMARKOut1) September 12, 2017
Lonzo Ball: Doesn't think Nas is rap.
Guess who ranked higher? https://t.co/urOVMR2ftK
Lonzo Ball ranked before Carmelo Anthony is so disrespectful— 1031 (@HennyGod_) September 12, 2017
Hey ESPN, how about we let Lonzo Ball play a preseason game before we say he's better than Carmelo Anthony...— Alex B. (@KnicksCentral) September 12, 2017
You don't have to be the biggest Anthony fan in the world—or even a Ball hater—to believe these people have a point. The write-up for Ball's mini-profile makes it even more ridiculous, with the ESPN crew explaining briefly what led them to this decision.
"Ball is the highest-ranked rookie and it comes on the heels of an MVP summer league performance in Las Vegas," it reads. "While it's dangerous to put too much stock in a handful of offseason games, it's impossible to cast aside his infectious play as simply noise." The blurb goes on to compare Ball's summer favorably to the Summer League performances of John Wall, Derrick Rose, Steph Curry, and Russell Westbrook.
Can we please let the kid play a professional game before anointing him as the second coming? I'm as interested and excited to see him suit up as anyone is, but good grief, there's still a lot left for him to prove, and he better pray to whatever god he believes in that he doesn't stumble out of the gate.