Presented by Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich
In his strongest remarks to date about his playing future, Chicago Bulls guard Lonzo Ball insisted he will return to the basketball court.
"I'm going to play again," Ball said Saturday.
Ball spoke at Invest Fest in Atlanta, dubbed "the world's biggest business festival" and filled with speakers from the worlds of music, investment and entertainment. According to a release from the event promoters, Ball spoke about "the cultural impact of Big Baller Brand" as well as his "journey as a child star and managing expectations."
But the most important words for Bulls fans came when he was asked on stage about his NBA future. Ball hasn't played since January 2022, has endured three left knee surgeries including a cartilage transplant and has already been ruled out for the 2023-24 season.
"Life is not easy," Ball said. "If you want to get the most out of it, you gotta put your best foot forward. If you're going to get knocked down, you gotta get back up every time if you want to keep going. You can always quit and take the easy way out and pout and go to the side. But for me, if you're trying to get to a place where I want to get to, you just gotta get back up, dust off and keep going.
"I'm going to play again."
Ball has been in the headlines all week after talking optimistically about his future in an appearance on "From the Point by Trae Young" podcast. Those words then prompted a strong response from ESPN commentator Stephen A. Smith and a back-and-forth between Ball and Smith when Smith claimed Ball couldn't even rise out of a chair.
"The outside noise doesn't bother me," Ball said in Atlanta. "The Stephen A. thing, he has a wide platform. And to me, I just don't appreciate when people put out fake news like that, especially someone of his stature that can touch a lot of people.
"For me, I know what I gotta do to get back. And I'm just on a path doing what I gotta do every day, taking it step-by-step. I don't look too far ahead. I know in my near future that I will be back on the court for sure."
Ball has a player option for the 2023-24 season. The Bulls have received a $10.2 million disabled player exception for this season because both the team and Ball have said he won't play. However, the Bulls are right at the luxury tax threshold of $165.3 million with two non-guaranteed contracts in Carlik Jones and Terry Taylor and can't exceed the hard cap of $172.3 million.
But that's the financial stuff for this season. The most intriguing aspect is Ball's potential return for the 2023-24 season, one which the guard is obviously quite confident he can make.