Published Nov. 19, 2019, on

LaMelo Ball tries to catch his breath, placing his hands on his hips as if holding on to them is all that is preventing him from falling down. His hamstrings burn. His knees creak. His white ankle socks have turned a dirty shade of gray from his beach sprints this October afternoon. As he stares out at the Pacific Ocean, his feet sink into sand so dense it might as well be tar.

The glittering, blue-green waves have no beginning, no end. Some might find it idyllic, relaxing, here on the beach in the sleepy, saltwater-scented beach town of Wollongong, Australia.

Not LaMelo. He doesn’t like to think about what’s
out there.

It’s not just that he’s far from home, from all he knows. LaMelo is afraid of the ocean. Or more so, of everything in it. Tiger sharks, great white sharks, bull sharks. He is sure that if he dips his feet in, lets the water swirl around his toes, he’ll be swallowed up. This is the other side of the Pacific, but it’s the same ocean.

And there’s something else familiar, something else after him. He can sense it, see it out of the corner of his eye. He realizes he’s being watched. Two girls, one blond, one brunette, come closer. Close enough to see the imprint of his footsteps. The blonde pulls out her iPhone and starts recording LaMelo with one hand, holding an H&M bag in the other. The girls point and stare at him like he is an art exhibit. An animal. Like one of the sulphur-crested cockatoo birds hovering in the distance. The brunette asks LaMelo for a selfie. “Best day of my life,” she says a few minutes later before walking away.

A world away from where the Ball family is known for seeking such attention, I’m struck by the awkwardness of the scene, of the strangeness that is constant in this teenager’s life. But LaMelo doesn’t seem bothered. Smile, selfie, smile is the rhythm of his life. (READ FULL STORY HERE).