LaMelo Ball is a one-of-one.
Selected third overall in the 2020 NBA Draft, the 19-year-old didn't waste much time to make his case as the most talented player from his draft class, finishing with 22 points, eight rebounds and five steals in just his fourth game before flirting with a triple-double in just his ninth contest.
Ball might have played in just 51 of a possible 72 games but throughout his rookie campaign, it felt like he would do things that no other rookie could on a near-nightly basis. It's why he ran away with this year's Rookie of the Year award, easily beating out Minnesota's Anthony Edwards.
As impressive as their cases are, it feels like Ball is the favourite to win Rookie of the Year, and there are several moments from his past season that show exactly why.
1. Jan. 9, 2021 - Youngest to ever record a triple-double
LaMelo Ball comes off the bench to tally his first career triple-double! #AllFly @MELOD1P : 22 PTS, 12 REB, 11 AST pic.twitter.com/IHwfedr9G4- NBA (@NBA) January 10, 2021
One night after falling one assist shy, Ball made NBA history by finishing with 22 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists.
At 19 years and 140 days of age, Ball became the youngest player in NBA history to record a triple-double, breaking a record that was held by 2019 Rookie of the Year Luka Doncic.
He did it in his 10th NBA game, no less.
More important than the history that was made was the fact that the Hornets earned an eight-point victory over the Atlanta Hawks in that game.
2. Jan. 29, 2021 - The put back
‼️‼️‼️‼️‼️‼️‼️‼️‼️‼️- Charlotte Hornets (@hornets) January 30, 2021
RT & VOTE for @MELOD1P #NBAAllStar ⭐️🗳 #AllFly pic.twitter.com/QIFEPKtgmD
Who said LaMelo wasn't athletic? The Indiana Pacers found out what happens if you don't box him out the hard way.
Watch your head!
3. Feb. 3, 2021 - Behind-the-back sets up "Sky" Miles Bridges
Best duo connection in the association 😏- Charlotte Hornets (@hornets) February 4, 2021
🅱️➡️✈️ @MilesBridges | @HornetsOnFSSE pic.twitter.com/cx6nStPbLj
Ball-to-Bridges has quickly risen up the power rankings of best passer-dunker duos in the NBA.
This behind-the-back bounce pass that sets up a vicious windmill shows exactly why. I continue to go back and forth on which one is better - the pass or the dunk … but without the pass, there is no dunk. This is easily a top play from the past season.
4. Feb. 8, 2021 - Seven 3s, please
LaMelo Ball tied the rookie record for most threes made in a game with 7⃣ as the @hornets defeated the Rockets! 💦- NBA Fantasy (@NBAFantasy) February 9, 2021
24 PTS - 7 REB - 10 AST - 43.4 FPTS pic.twitter.com/BPgDqxB6F1
More history, you say?
In addition to athleticism-related concerns, there were plenty of knocks on LaMelo's 3-point shooting coming into the league. Ball, who shot 35.2 percent from deep in his rookie campaign, is putting some of those concerns to rest.
In an early-February rout of the Houston Rockets, Ball became the youngest player to drain seven 3s in a game, doing so at 19 years, 171 days old. Only three other teenagers - Doncic, Coby White and Anfernee Simons - have hit seven triples in a game, and Ball did it on a night where he finished with 24 points and seven assists.
5. Feb. 24, 2021 - A driving slam in The Valley
He's not your average rookie! @MELOD1P | @HornetsOnFSSE pic.twitter.com/UUNAHGm8Ns- Charlotte Hornets (@hornets) February 25, 2021
It's clutch time against one of the league's best teams, whose hands do you want the ball in?
Your 19-year-old phenom, of course.
Following a nice crossover to freeze a former No. 1 overall pick in Deandre Ayton, Ball again showed off the athleticism with a driving two-hander that looks even cooler based on the way he swung off the rim. Don't doubt the athleticism.
6. March 13, 2021 - How did he do that?
The Spin Cycle 🌪🌪🌪 @MELOD1P | @HornetsOnFSSE pic.twitter.com/DekuLAVcLB- Charlotte Hornets (@hornets) March 14, 2021
There's no denying that the calls of Hornets play-by-play announcer Eric Collins intensify Ball's nightly highlights.
Honestly, not sure how - or why - LaMelo pulled off this spin before draining a corner triple in a rout of the Toronto Raptors, but he made it work. Also, I'm not sure there are too many players in the league that can: 1. pull off a similar move and 2. look as smooth while doing it.
7. May 1, 2021 - An incredible u nderhanded dime
HE'S BAAAAAACCCCCKKKK!! 🕺🛸 @MELOD1P | #AllFly pic.twitter.com/VAwujBvjAa- Charlotte Hornets (@hornets) May 1, 2021
After missing 21 games with a wrist injury, Ball returned to action in a home contest against the Detroit Pistons.
Typically, players take it relatively easy in their first game back, but LaMelo returned in true LaMelo fashion, pulling off one of the more impressive passes in recent years. Again, who would think to try and throw a full-court pass underhanded? And who could deliver it on the money?
Nobody but the one-of-one that is Ball.
8. May 2, 2021 - Right to left
Wait for it 🤣🤣... it's the hand switch for us 🤚✋ @MELOD1P | #AllFly pic.twitter.com/9M8U40cKA5- Charlotte Hornets (@hornets) May 3, 2021
The very next game, Ball got a little flashy by switching hands mid-air to make yet another highlight.
He's a star and a showman, as evidenced by his repetition of his move for the cameras as he ran back on defence. Unlike some of the other moments, this shifty layup is commonplace on a nightly basis but LaMelo just makes it look cool.
It breeds even more excitement for what's to come in Year 2 and beyond.
The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.