Hornets' LaMelo Ball Says He's Expecting to Switch to Jersey No. 1 Next Season

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVApril 14, 2022

Charlotte Hornets' LaMelo Ball in action during an NBA basketball game against the Philadelphia 76ers, Saturday, April 2, 2022, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)
AP Photo/Chris Szagola

Charlotte Hornets point guard LaMelo Ball said he's never felt comfortable wearing a No. 2 jersey and is planning on a switch to No. 1 for the 2022-23 NBA season.

"That's supposed to happen. I'm not supposed to wear No. 2 ever again in my life," Ball told reporters Thursday.

Malik Monk wore No. 1 for the Hornets when Ball arrived to the organization as the third overall pick in the 2020 draft. The shooting guard left as free agent to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers in August.

After Monk's departure, the 2021 Rookie of the Year tried to make the jersey switch, but he'd missed the NBA's deadline for such changes for 2021-22.

"I'm fighting every day [to switch the number]," Ball said in September. "Definitely just want to be me out there and just playing in No. 2 don't feel right."

The 2022 All-Star selection wore No. 1 for most of his basketball career before arriving to the NBA. That includes stops at Chino Hills High School and the Spire Academy as well as a season of pro ball with the NBL's Illawarra Hawks before he became eligible for the draft.

Ball should have ample time to alert the NBA of his preferred change for next season and there's no one currently wearing the number for the Hornets, so there shouldn't be any major hurdles for him to complete the switch this time around.

If he felt the jersey number was actually affecting his performance, it didn't show up in the stats.

Ball, 20, averaged 20.1 points, 7.6 assists, 6.7 rebounds and 1.6 steals across 75 appearances for Charlotte during the 2021-22 season. He ranked tied for 34th among all NBA players in FiveThirtyEight's WAR metric.

The Hornets qualified for the Eastern Conference play-in tournament ahead of the playoffs, but they were eliminated by the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday.

That shifted the focus to next season, and Ball is already dreaming of his return to No. 1.