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How LaMelo Ball became hated without saying a word

LAS VEGAS -- THE TWITTER RESPONSES are something you might expect from Knicks fans talking about Carmelo Anthony or Cavaliers fans recently discussing Kyrie Irving.

Goodbye! Most overrated player!
I would hate to be his teammate.
Total garbage.
Kid is a [expletive] loser.

And that's just from the past 24 hours.

And it's also not about Anthony or Irving.

It's in response to tweets about LaMelo Ball, a five-star point guard committed to UCLA for the class of 2019. He just led the Adidas Summer Championships in scoring for the week despite being younger than the majority of his opponents, including a 56-point performance in Big Ballers' final game of the weekend, a 116-95 loss to Team Lillard on Saturday night.

Ball is only 15.

But he's also the son of LaVar Ball.

And that's where it starts.

IT'S VERY EASY to make the case that LaMelo Ball is the most famous high school athlete in more than a decade.

He has 2.3 million followers on Instagram and 188,800 on Twitter. He's been on WWE's "Monday Night Raw." He committed to play basketball at UCLA when he was 13 years old. His highlights have been on SportsCenter multiple times. He scored 92 points in a game in February.

LaVar Ball takes it one step further.

"He's the most famous high school athlete ever," Ball told ESPN before the Adidas Summer Championships began last week.

"You see how he's dealing with it. Just walking through life. As long as I got his back, he's fine. But he expects all this, like I tell him. If you a sorry cat and can't play a lick, none of this will come to you. And when you the baddest one in the world and you set new precedents on different things, you gonna be that dude. We expect all this to come with it."

Just the mere sight of LaMelo in Las Vegas this past week was enough to get crowds buzzing. They wanted to see his patented 35-foot pull-up jumpers or one-handed passes. His Big Ballers team had to leave gyms at times through back exits so LaMelo wouldn't get hounded for photos or autographs. He gave the sneakers he wore on Saturday to new fans who were there to watch him.

"He's had more attention on him since he's been a baby," LaVar said last week. "He loves it. This is what he does. He's an entertainer. He's gonna go hard. Win or lose, he's gonna give you a good show."

WHILE LAMELO BEING THE MOST FAMOUS high school athlete ever is up for debate -- Simone Biles and other Olympians could make a case -- there's a different argument that is easily settled.

LaMelo Ball is the most hated high school athlete of all time. And it's not close.

And it's also not entirely his fault.

The negativity stems mostly from people's dislike of LaVar. LaVar's constant boasting and braggadocio over the past eight months has turned some people off, and they take it out on his son on social media.

Then there's the system LaMelo's high school and AAU teams run. Video of his 92-point performance showed a lot of cherry-picking and lazy defense. But that's the style Chino Hills and Big Ballers have played since his older brother, Los Angeles Lakers No. 2 draft pick Lonzo Ball, was running the show: go for a steal early defensively, leak out on made baskets and take a lot of 3-pointers.

A late May performance went viral for LaMelo's missed shots and turnovers -- and the number of people who took pleasure in watching him struggle had it trending on Twitter for a short time.

Videos like that make people think LaMelo is just a gimmick, a product of a scoring-happy system. In reality, he is one of the best point guards in the 2019 class. He grew from 5-foot-8 to 6-foot-3 over the past year and seems to still be growing into his body. LaMelo has uncanny feel with the ball in his hands, showing some of the same passing ability and vision that Lonzo possesses. He doesn't have blow-by quickness, but utilizes a floater effectively to finish in the lane. And of course, there's the shooting range.

One of the problems is the difficulty of getting a good evaluation of him. For example, LaMelo had a showdown against elite 2018 point guard Immanuel Quickley on Friday morning. Within minutes, LaVar received a technical foul, the game was delayed, a referee was replaced and the sideline antics overshadowed what should have been a great head-to-head matchup.

Hype aside, though, LaMelo is supremely talented and a legitimate five-star prospect.

"In the long run, he'll be the coldest one," LaVar said. "Because his mind is super strong. Melo is doing whatever he can do, got people commenting on the outside, his mind's strong. I get on him on purpose, just to see if he's gonna break. That fool won't break. He's 15. Imagine what he's going to do when he's 16, 17. His mind game be so strong. People don't understand what I'm getting him ready for; it ain't for the next day. It's for the overall treatment. Everything's going to sit in him. Won't nothing bother him at all."

THERE SEEMS TO BE A DISCONNECT between the public and private LaMelo Ball. LaVar describes him as an extremely outgoing person, a wild kid always talking and trying to get involved.

On the court, LaMelo doesn't show much of that. He puts on a show with his game, but doesn't constantly talk trash or pound his chest after a made basket.

And after the game? He barely talks. Like, at all.

Here's the entire unedited interview between two reporters and LaMelo on Saturday:

Question: Do you feel like there's pressure to come out and perform every time?
Answer: No, not at all.

Question: Do you like the attention that you get?
Answer: Yeah, it's good.

Question: What goes through your mind since you're so popular but so disliked?
Answer: Nothing. I'm just hooping out here. That's it.

Question: You don't feel like you have a target?
Answer: Nah, I don't care.

Question: In the spring, you had that game where you didn't play well and the video went viral. What did you think?
Answer: It was just a bad game. Everybody got one.

Question: How do you deal with your dad having so much attention?
Answer: I just be me. And he be him. That's it.

It's a stark contrast to the boisterous LaVar -- and the LaMelo that LaVar describes.

"Melo's the entertainer," LaVar said. "He's gonna entertain your ass, either with something he says, something he do, the way he play. He's going to entertain. He's always been an entertainer. He would come in in the middle of the night, dead asleep. If he hears me talking to some people, he come in doing this [dancing]. I say, 'Melo, go back to bed.'"

LaMelo did show some of that fun side during his appearance with LaVar and Lonzo on WWE's "Monday Night Raw" last month. He also was caught on a live microphone jokingly saying, "Beat that n---a ass" to LaVar, who was arguing with The Miz.

"He's wild like me," LaVar said. "You see his hair, he talk crazy, you gotta [cover] his mouth. Here's the thing: Anything comes out a 14-, 15-year-old kid. Just like when they said it was a racial slur. But what did they expect? If I'm in the ring, looking like I'm about to fight, he don't know it's fake. He was like, 'Dad, let's get it!' That's Melo. Melo got my back, but he's wild."

LaMELO IS A LEGITIMATE CELEBRITY at this point, and that's not going to change for the rest of his high school career. He still has two more years of this at the high school level, and now he has an older brother playing for the Los Angeles Lakers.

LaMelo is going to be hounded by fans for selfies and Snapchats, he's going to be on TMZ, he's going to be the center of attention. He's also going to be targeted by opponents, scrutinized and hated on by people on social media.

But if this past week is any indication, the drama isn't going to faze him.

"He don't like the attention at all," LaVar said. "He loves that [expletive]."

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