NBA prospect LaMelo Ball's hopes of owning an Australian professional basketball team were stolen away Wednesday as a rival consortium swooped on the Illawarra Hawks.
Ball's business manager had previously said the purchase of the team, based in Wollongong south of Sydney, was a "done deal" but on Wednesday the Aussie league confirmed the licence had gone elsewhere.
The National Basketball League confirmed a group including former Philadelphia 76ers general manager Bryan Colangelo had won the licence for the team, beating out Ball's bid.
The 18-year-old point guard's brief stint at the Hawks last year helped him solidify his 2020 NBA Draft top pick contender status, and the NBL's owner thanked him for his ongoing support.
"The decision in choosing the right owners was not an easy one," NBL owner Larry Kestelman said in a statement.
"I would like, in particular, to thank LaMelo Ball and his organisation for the support and interest shown in wanting to achieve the best outcome for the team."
The team's name will also change to just the "Hawks" as part of the deal.
The successful consortium also includes former Sydney Kings co-owner Dorry Kordahi and US business man Michael Proctor.
Colangelo said the group were thrilled at winning the tender and that Ball's time there proved the growing allure of Australian basketball.
"LaMelo Ball, among others, serves as a great example of just how influential the NBL has become on a global basis," he said.
Ball went to Australia last August and averaged 17.0 points, 7.5 rebounds and 7.0 assists in 12 games with the Hawks before a foot injury ended his NBL season.
The American also donated a month of his Hawks salary to victims of the bushfires that ravaged Australia in late 2019 and early 2020.
NBA prospect Lamelo Ball played for the Hawks in Australia last year