Ontario, California — History was made in the “New Ball Era” as the first professional basketball league of its kind took the court at Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, California. And for the fans that attended the game or watched it live on the JBA Facebook page, were given a treat on Thursday night.
Everyone was looking to see what LaMelo Ball was going to do, but Niles Malone stole the show for the Los Angeles Ballers.
Before Los Angeles took the court, Niguel Chaney scored 27 points to lead the Atlanta Ballers to a 128-117 victory over the Chicago Ballers to open the 2018 JBA League.
The JBA League will now head to Houston, Texas for a doubleheader on Saturday, June 23rd at Texas Southern University starting with the 5 PM CST game featuring the Seattle Ballers against the Dallas Ballers followed by the 7:30 PM game featuring the New York Ballers against the Houston Ballers. Tickets are still on sale at juniorbasketballassociation.org
Jordan Ray and Jacory Hall each had 26 points each for Atlanta (1-0), who had control for theentire game despite several Chicago (0-1) attempted comebacks thanks to Kezo Brown’s 21 points. Brown also added 10 assists and 8 rebounds on the night. Chicago had a chance to take control when Atlanta big man Corey “Big Jelly” Boyd sat on the bench in the fourth quarter with his fifth foul, but Atlanta held on for the victory.
LaVar Ball addressed the crowd of 1000 in the arena and the fans watching the game, which was being live streamed on the JBA Facebook page, and thanked them for making the night possible as history was made. An estimated 800,000 fans watched the live stream from both games.
“They said nobody’s coming to this,” said LaVar. “They’re right! Nobody here is a nobody. Everybody here is a somebody.”
Finally, it was the main event and Niles Malone was the main player in game two thanks to his 41 points and three steals to lead the Los Angeles Ballers to a 134-124 victory.
Despite having a tough night from three-point range, LaMelo Ball still managed to score 40 points to go along with his 11 rebounds, 9 assists and three steals, which just fell short of a triple-double in his first professional game in the states.
“We got some big players on our team,” Ball said. “Greg did his thing and Niles definitely did his thing. We knew what we are capable of and we started grooving. It felt great being back home.” Greg Floyd Jr. scored 34 points with 17 rebounds for Los Angeles (1-0), who held the lead for all but the first minute and a half of the game. Combined, Los Angeles’ big three scored 115 points. Taylor Kirkham scored 13 points off the bench for Los Angeles.
“We kept the pressure going,” Los Angeles coach Doyle Balthazar said. “We kept the tempo up and they got a little tired on us. We just had a little more extra tonight. Niles is a solid point guard and if Melo was shaky tonight, I can’t wait when he’s solid. We are looking forward to some great things.”
Calvin Brown kept it close in the end for New York (0-1). Brown led the way with 22 points to go with his six rebounds. Morissana Camara scored 14 points and led New York with 9 rebounds. Chris Lacey also scored 14 points to go with his six rebounds, and Magd Abdelwahab scored 13 points with six rebounds and Jerry Antoine II finished with 9 points for New York. But the night went to Malone, who was part of Los Angeles “Big 3”, but he was the leading of the crew and the crowd knew it. Malone appreciated the “MVP” chants from fans, but it’s not the first time he’s heard that chant.
“I just want thank God for giving me the ability to hoop,” Malone said. I want to Thank my coaches and the team for having confidence in me. It was a good team win to start the season. They have been calling me ‘MVP Nuski’ since high school. It was crazy how it happened last night. Shoutout to our fans. They were lit.”
The JBA League goes on tour across the country, but will return to Citizens Business Bank Arena on July 12th.