Domineering sports parents aren’t a new phenomenon.
Marv Marinovich had constructed an austere diet and workout regimen for his son Todd when he was practically in utero.
And Richard Williams wrote an 80-page manifesto on how he would forge his daughters Venus and Serena into champions.
But LaVar Ball takes helicopter parenting to an obnoxious and self-aggrandizing apex.
His son, Lonzo Ball, is an excellent basketball player who could be the first pick in the 2017 NBA draft after an impressive one-and-done season at UCLA.
However, every time Lonzo gets mentioned in the press, it’s as a perfunctory side-note to whatever media firestorm his father LaVar has already cooked up.
“I’m gonna tell you right now, he’s better than Steph Curry to me. Put Steph Curry on UCLA’s team right now and put my boy on Golden State and watch what happens.”
That might be only the seventh nuttiest thing senior Ball has said this calendar year.
And he doubled-down on that by proclaiming Lonzo is better than LeBron James and Russell Westbrook.
Soon he’ll swear Lonzo is better than Moses Guthrie from “The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh”, Jesus Shuttlesworth from “He Got Game”, Jesus of Nazareth, and Michael Jordan.
Speaking of ‘His Airness’, LaVar said he would “kill” Michael Jordan back when they were both in their primes. Clearly, the fact he averaged 2.2 points per game coming off Washington State’s bench the same year Jordan averaged 35 a night in the NBA is immaterial in ‘LaVar World’.
It gets worse. After UCLA lost in the Sweet 16, LaVar said,
“Realistically you can’t win no championship with three white guys because the foot speed is too slow.”
Unathletic-white-guy jokes aside, that’s an incredibly foolish thing to say, especially considering LaVar’s wife is white.
And it gets weirder. A report claimed that when Tina – the matriarch of the Ball family and who also played college basketball – suffered a stroke on February 21st, LaVar had barred his sons from visiting her so as not to draw negative attention to the family’s marketing brand (more on this in a second).
The story is questionable because of its anonymously sourced provenance, stark callousness, and illogic; children visiting their sick mother would hurt their brand?
However, when questioned about it, Lonzo responded,
“I got no comment on that, man. It’s a family thing.”
Tina’s relatively active Twitter feed also went dark on February 19th, two days before the alleged stroke.
Lonzo is right. It is a family thing. The affection the Ball family exhibits toward each other feels genuine. Whether or not the stroke happened, it’s a personal issue.
The problem is if the report is true, LaVar’s constant overweening media bombs in the midst of a family crisis expose him as the huckster many people already believe him to be.
LaVar officially registered Big Baller Brand as the name for the family’s apparel company in 2016.
When taking that into context, LaVar’s cocksure statements make more sense; there’s no such thing as bad press.
However, there comes a point when bad press turns into bad business. Perception matters.
Likability can be the difference between the Big Baller Brand flying off the shelves at major department stores, or being found exclusively at Payless Shoes and Mobil gas stations.
John Wall already stated LaVar has put a target on his son Lonzo’s back.
“He just added fuel to the fire to when he probably plays Steph Curry or plays any other point guards after he gets drafted.”
Lonzo is a terrific NBA prospect. For his sake, hopefully, the sports highlights shows won’t reduce a decent rookie game down to a few clips of him getting embarrassed in attempt to pile-on the anti-Ball sentiment.
JaVale McGee got branded with the label of being a knucklehead for years as a result of incessant mocking from Shaquille O’Neal on his TNT segment “Shaqtin’ a Fool.”
McGee’s resentment over the teasing reached a bizarre crescendo when he and Shaq engaged in a hostile Twitter war that only ended after their mothers brokered a détente.
In fact, McGee’s current teammate Kevin Durant and head coach Steve Kerr both admitted they’d bought into the narrative of McGee as a clownish player until it was dispelled by his work ethic. Perception matters.
Lonzo Ball’s NBA journey has yet to begin.
His younger brothers, LiAngelo and LaMelo, are set to follow in his footsteps and play basketball at UCLA as well.
To LaVar and Tina’s credit, they appear to have raised three well-behaved sons who are really, really good at hoops.
The basketball-playing Ball family is a nice story, but we’re only at the beginning of it.
So it would be a shame if LaVar’s antics and stage-mom officiousness spoiled everything.