- Before Lonzo, LiAngelo and LaMelo put Chino Hills on the map, a gospel quartet from Illinois took claim to The Ball Brothers name with Christian music fame.
He’s a member of a basketball family, boasting nearly enough brothers to field an entire starting lineup. They host a behind-the-scenes reality television show online, claiming a subset of culture by storm. They tour across the world, playing for devoted fans. In February, when handing his boarding pass to the gate agent in Bolivia, the documentation was met only by a cry of “Lonzo!” Daniel Ball could only shake his head.
The lead singer of The Ball Brothers, a christian gospel quartet hailing from Lincoln, Ill., Daniel has grown accustomed to dealing with his pesky namesake newcomers. It wasn’t truly until 2016 the vocalists faced nominal competition. “We were The Ball Brothers for 10 years,” Daniel says. “We’re the original Ball Brothers,” adds Andrew Ball, the group’s first tenor. “We’re older. We were here first.” When Lonzo Ball—the Lakers point guard and eldest of LaVar Ball’s three hoophead sons who have encroached on The Ball Brothers’ corner—dropped his first mixtape, tensions, facetiously, mounted. “It was like, ‘Stay in your lane,” Daniel says.
Further entangling matters, The Ball Brothers—not to be confused with the Ball brothers—have long supported the Lakers. Richard Ball, the brothers’ father, served as the assistant pastor at Park Meadows Baptist Church for 20 years, preaching, among many, to a 6’9” sharpshooting basketball-phenom named Brian Cook. After starring for the nearby Illini, Los Angeles selected the Balls’ childhood friend with the 24th pick in the 2003 NBA Draft. Cook’s Lakers tenure conveniently overlapped with the Bulls’ post-Michael Jordan plateau. “We knew a guy on the Lakers,” Daniel says. He played 13 games during LA’s run to the 2004 Finals his rookie season, and the rest was history. “It’s been 17 years now. We’ve stuck with the Lakers through a lot,” Daniel says.
When The Ball Brothers officially formed in 2006, the quartet initially battled Lucille Ball and The Ball Brothers Glass Manufacturing Company for search engine supremacy. No matter I Love Lucy’s indelible TV footprint, The Ball Brothers eventually squeaked to the top of “ball” search results. Daniel feverishly plugged in SEO requirements and the necessary tags to generate higher-trafficked placements on Google. Around 2012, Andrew noticed a video of the Ball brothers that was marked #ballbrothers. A YouTube rabbit hole revealed the Chino Hills prodigies. “And then LaVar starts talking to the press, and the next thing you know, the internet loves it and we’re getting buried,” Daniel says.
Somewhere in between LaMelo Ball’s polarizing 92-point high school game and the Lakers ultimately drafting Lonzo No. 2 in the 2017 draft, Andrew panicked. The Ball Brothers had branded themselves online years ago, claiming theballbrothers.com in addition to @theballbrothers Twitter and Instagram handles and The Ball Brothers page on Facebook. Yet the group’s emails starting receiving a slew of phishing notifications of foreign devices attempting to change the accounts’ passwords. A hacker can gross quite a profit by stealing a user- or domain name and selling it to the right celebrity. “I actually contacted our personal attorney and said, ‘Hey, just by chance, are we protected legally here so we don’t have to change the name of our group?’” Andrew remembers. "That would have been devastating."
The confusion only spirals on tour. The Ball Brothers travel in a jet-black, 45-foot Prevost tour bus, driven by none other than Richard. As the vehicle wheels into a restaurant, it typically draws the undivided attention of fellow diners. When the group pays with their “The Ball Brothers” Visa, waitstaff inevitably ask if there’s any relation to that other Ball family. The line of questioning usually continues. Is LaVar really so loud? What do you think of Lonzo’s shot? When Big Baller Brand dropped Lonzo’s debut sneaker at the noticeable starting price of $495, gas station attendants and hotel concierges across the globe complained to The Ball Brothers about the cost. “I’ll call LaVar right now and let him know,” Andrew farcically offered. The Ball brothers declined an interview request for this story.
The Ball Brothers are actually qualified to comment on the Ball brothers’ on-court prowess. Daniel, Andrew, Stephen and Josh helped power Park Meadows Academy to multiple Christian School state tournament titles in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Stephen once rivaled LaMelo, reaching 70 points in one game. Andrew, a 6’2” Shawn Kemp devotee, attempted to dunk as often as possible for a season at Blessed Hope Baptist College in Benton, Ark. Daniel modestly compared his game to Jud Buechler. “All hustle,” he says. Decades of injuries ultimately rendered their relative-lack of height and above-average dexterity useless. “We decided singing was a more viable option,” Andrew says.
Today, Daniel and Andrew form The Ball Brothers with their brother-in-law Chad McCloskey and bass member Rhett Robert. The early years on tour unfortunately left Stepen with hearing loss. He has, however, since endured a cochlear implant and re-learned to hear digitally. Josh transitioned off the road to work with children’s ministries with the family’s church. When they can, they shoot hoops on tour. The Ball Brothers perform roughly 150 concerts each year, so far singing in Bolivia (“Lonzo!”), Germany, the Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Canada and around the U.S. Their song “It’s About the Cross” soared to No.1 on the iTunes Christian sales chart and it’s music video has accumulated over 45 million views on Facebook, where they have 300,000 followers.
Now based out of Chickamauga, Ga., Daniel took his kids to see the Hawks host the Lakers in late February. They wrapped themselves in purple and gold. “To have your last name on a Lakers jersey… it’s pretty cool,” Daniel says. Although with LeBron James’ arrival, The Ball Brothers are slightly concerned how The King will impact Lonzo and the rest of the Lakers’ young core. “You think, is LeBron going to transition his game into making them better?” Daniel says. “Kobe was focused on being Kobe until his very last game. I think LeBron has the basketball IQ to be able to do it, but will he trust Lonzo to bring the ball up the court? Will he trust Kyle Kuzma to take big shots at the end of games? You wonder what it’s going to do to Brandon Ingram as far as helping him develop. It could be great but it could be a disaster.”
For now, the group is prepped for their own breakout season. The 2017 Absolutely Gospel Music "Male Group of the Year" award winners are focused on their current project, “Dynamic,” which has made the top five on the iTunes Christian Chart. They’ll leave the Lakers commentary to basketball’s most audacious father, hoping he’ll join their group to form a quintet. “If LaVar will sing with us, we’ll play ball with him,” Daniel says.