Though he's still the only American male to participate in four Olympics as a member of team sport, his last game is always the one Lloy Ball will remember best. On Aug. 24, 2008, Ball led the American men to a four-game win over Brazil in the gold medal match at the Beijing Olympics.
After a fourth-place finish in Athens in 2004, the Woodburn native figured his career with the United States Men's Volleyball Team was over. The odd thing is, the further away he got from the American team, the more success he had playing overseas, winning pro-league titles in Greece, Italy and Russia. After winning the European Champions League title in the winter of 2008, the world's biggest title outside of international play, U.S. coach Hugh McCutcheon realized Ball was playing better than ever and asked him to return.
And then Ball showed the maturity he had gained. He became the team's steadying influence. That calm helped the U.S. beat Brazil 20-25, 25-22, 25-21, 25-23. The Americans trailed 20-17 in the fourth set.
“As much as this is an incredible feat, and one that I've been working on for so long, I know it won't change who or what I am. I still want to be a good dad, a great husband and son and teammate.
“It took me 36 years to get to be the man I am, and all this does is add another line on the résumé and justify the sacrifice my family had to make. It's the most momentous thing in my sporting career, but it doesn't change who Lloy Ball is.”
Ball finished with 90 assists and 10 digs as the Americans beat the defending Olympic champions.
“Each Olympics, as the pressure mounts and the impending doom of not getting to another one adds on, the moment becomes bigger,” Ball said. “If it had happened after the first one in Atlanta, it would have been awesome, but I'm guessing it wouldn't have met as much because it would have come too easily.”
The longest-tenured captain in U.S. history, Ball was recognized several times as the world's best server or setter, and in 2008 he was selected as the World League Most Valuable Player.
He was inducted into the International Volleyball Hall of Fame in 2015. Ball also won six international team titles while playing professionally in Japan, Greece, Italy and Russia.
“While receiving the gold medal is super cool, it didn't fill me with the same amount of joy as hugging everyone else did,” he said. “I really don't care about the medal. I have lots of them, and I know they aren't all Olympic, but that doesn't equal anything. It's awesome for people to see, but the winning of it is more important than the medal. The recognition of being on the top of the podium is what we strive for. We hold up the laurels and the wreaths and the flowers, and the medal is like a parting gift. The moments mean more to me than the actual medal.”
About This Series
Ever wonder what a Northeast Indiana Sports Hall of Fame might include? During a time when it may be difficult to look ahead to great sporting events, The Journal Gazette is going to offer you a look into Fort Wayne and Northeast Indiana's fantastic athletic past. Over the next few weeks, we'll offer some suggestions on the people and events which could be featured in such a facility.