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Player 1 of 1: LaMelo Ball Launches Gaming and Esports Brand

The Charlotte Hornet and reigning NBA Rookie of the Year unveils MB1 Gaming, a new esports organization launched alongside One Up.

LaMelo Ball has never been one to sit back and let others take the lead. That’s just the life of a point guard — you’re always the initiator.

As a teenager, he forged his own path, choosing to forgo college and begin his pro career early, overseas. Back stateside, he forced his way into the starting lineup just a month into his debut season, eventually earning NBA Rookie of the Year honors. He signed a deal with Puma in 2020, and now, less than two years later, has his own signature shoe and Puma-branded “1 of 1” clothing line.

So it shouldn’t be a surprise that the Charlotte Hornets playmaker isn’t just diving into esports — he’s building his own thing.

Ball and esports tournament platform One Up announced on Monday that the two have partnered to launch esports brand MB1 Gaming.

If the name sounds familiar, well, it should. It shares the name with his signature Puma shoe, launched in December as the MB.01. So, yeah, there’s no doubt that this is his endeavor.

MB1 Gaming will host esports tournaments on One Up’s platform, starting with an NBA 2K tournament in February. Appropriately, Puma will be the sponsor.

The tournament will be free to enter and includes $25,000 in prize money on the line. The tournament’s four finalists will compete for the title in Cleveland alongside the NBA All-Star festivities on Feb. 18. Those finalists will also each get a pair of MB.01s.

As part of the partnership with One Up, Ball has also agreed to give away merchandise and provide exclusive content through its app.

This seems to be as good a time as any for Ball to make his official leap into gaming and esports. The industry is booming, highlighted by FaZe Clan‘s plans to go public at a $1 billion valuation and Microsoft purchasing Activation Blizzard for an incredible $68.7 billion. With sponsorship dollars flooding in and the hope for big media rights deals with streaming platforms like Twitch and YouTube in the future, there’s certainly a roadmap here for MB1 Gaming to thrive.

Having a name like LaMelo Ball at the forefront doesn’t hurt, either.

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The LaMelo Ball Brand

Age: 20
Social media reach: 8.8 million, including 7.8 million on Instagram
Contract: 4 years, $35,596,275 (restricted free agency in 2024)
2021 salary: $8,231,760
Sneaker deal: Puma contract reported to be worth $100 million (plus a private jet)
Key endorsements and ventures: Buzzer, 1 of 1 Prep Academy, Powerhandz

About The Author
Russell Steinberg
Russell Steinberg
Russell Steinberg is an editor and writer at Boardroom. He came to the brand in 2021 with a decade of experience in sports journalism, primarily covering college basketball at SB Nation as a writer, reporter, and blog manager. In a previous life, he worked as a social media strategist and copywriter, handling accounts ranging from sports retail to luxury hotels and financial technology. Though he has mastered the subtweet, he kindly requests you @ him next time.