Junior Basketball Association aims to rival NCAA

The upstart junior professional league has tough task of being viable

More stories from Scott Procter


Big Baller Brand’s newest project gives the JBA the opportunity to be a practical NCAA-alternative.

Lavar Ball is back in the headlines, but this time, he seems serious.

After alluding to intentions of launching his own junior professional league back in December, Big Baller Brand announced the initial plans for the Junior Basketball Association (JBA).

Ball posted a video on Twitter last month about the league’s tryout dates, which started last weekend in Seattle. He also unveiled the selection committee that will be choosing the talent for the eight-team league: former NBA players Earl Watson, Ed O’Bannon and current Lakers point guard (and Lavar’s son) Lonzo Ball.

The JBA is set to be an alternative for young athletes who aspire to play professional basketball without going the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) route, according to the JBA website.

The league will select eight players from eight cities to complete the eight-team roster. To be eligible, you must be a graduating high school senior and 17 to 19 years old.

“I believe this is a great opportunity for young athletes to showcase their skills,” said Ed O’Bannon in a statement shared by the JBA with SLAM. “According to Mark Emmert (NCAA president), athletes who want to focus on getting ready for the next level and want to be paid have no place in college sports. The Junior Basketball Association will now provide an alternate option for them. I’m looking forward to getting started.”

The benefits JBA athletes would acquire should make it easy for the league to entice top-tier talent. JBA plans to pay players between $3,000 and $10,000 a month, according to the Chicago Tribune, along with taking care of travel, meals and lodging.

There will be an All-Star Game, Playoffs and Finals with the entire championship team winning a new Mercedes, BMW or Cadillac, via the league website.

Just minutes after Ball posted his announcement tweet, the JBA website crashed due to high traffic.

The first weekend of tryouts saw the NCAA alternative land its first top-tier recruit. Greg Floyd Jr., a four-star prospect by ESPN, was chosen along with six other players to represent the Los Angeles Ballers.  

The 6 foot 9 inch tall forward had been committed to Long Beach State and averaged 11.5 points and 5.6 rebounds this past season at Antelope Valley College.

Although the JBA was able to land Floyd Jr. and steal him away from the NCAA, he was only one of about 25 or so athletes who showed up to the Los Angeles-area tryouts. The slim pickings have led to Big Baller Brand reaching out to elite high school players in peculiar ways.

USA Today High School Sports (USATHSS) polled McDonald’s All-Americans a few weeks back and most said they’d been contacted by BBB representatives either in-person or through direct messages on social media. Most were clear that they would not choose the JBA route, like Kansas signee Quentin Grimes.

“It’s definitely not for me,” Grimes told USATHSS. “It was more like a funny thing to see the Big Baller Brand sliding in my DM’s.”

It seems as though the JBA and Lavar Ball still have some work to do in being taken serious by athletes. If the JBA wants to truly rival the NCAA like it states, they must find a way to attract the nation’s top talent.

If the sentiments held by this year’s McDonald’s All-Americans are any indication of elite athletes’ desire to play in the JBA, the league may be a long way from relevancy.