Opinion: The LaVar Ball Problem
We have all heard stories of parents involved in youth-sports leagues that take the games way too serious. We have all seen athletes that have made names for themselves—and kept their names relevant—by generating news-worthy sound bytes whenever a camera, or microphone, is in front of them. However, a storm has never brewed in such a way to create a confluence of the two—and then have it spill into the professional sports realm—like it has with LaVar Ball. In fact, just by creating this article, no matter its reach, I fully understand that LaVar Ball wins. He is a man that practices the, "no such thing as bad press" saying to the nth degree, and makes sure that if the sports-media world is talking, it better be about him.
An abject, athletic failure of astronomical proportions, LaVar averaged a meager 2.2 points per game in his one year of playing at Washington State University. He is a man that recognizes that his sons' successes will be his success. He has transcended loving and caring parent, and morphed into an ostentatious promoter whose job is to solely remain relevant. LaVar gets it. He has already failed once as a basketball player; those dreams are over. He understands that Lonzo must succeed if he wants to live vicariously through him. If Lonzo fails, then he fails. If his youngest son LaMelo fails, he fails. My question is not whether his children will walk the walk for him, it is a matter of going through LaVar's recent transgressions, and wanting to know where line in the sand is?
He is a man that cries foul when things do not go his way as a coach, going as far as pulling his son's AAU team of the court and forfeiting games they were winning. It has shown to have little-to-no-effect on his sons, as shown in a video posted by Qwik11Hoops, his youngest son, LaMelo was heard saying his dad's reaction was, "the funniest shit I ever saw."
He behaves this way, because he can with impunity. After threatening to pull his AAU team off the court—again after receiving a technical foul—he demanded a new referee to replace the one that issued the technical. The female referee was replaced by Adidas, and a representative for Adidas told ESPN it was entirely their decision, and Ball was still ejected later in the game. Post-game, Ball was quoted saying the female referee had a "vendetta" and said she needed to "stay in her lane," a popular phrase of his, first used in May, when Ball was criticized by Fox Sports 1 reporter Kristine Leahy for his Big Baller Brand not selling female apparel. LaVar responded with a contemptuous tirade, telling Leahy to, again, "stay in her lane."
Pandering to a narcissist that behaves like a petulant child, and catering to such absurd behavior, only strengthens the aura of invulnerability that the Ball family travels with. Take their appearance on WWE's Monday Night Raw (NSFW; Language). They behave like everything is a joke for them, and Lonzo and LaMelo get away with their nonsense while joyously hiding behind their father's back, because at the end of the day, the Balls equal ratings and publicity on whatever program they are on.
We are only a couple of months away from the 2017-2018 NBA season, and Ball has displayed nothing outside of the fact that he is the antithesis of everything the NBA has been trying to accomplish regarding its stance on equality and sportsmanship. The NBA, and Commissioner Adam Silver, prides themselves on being a league that values progressiveness, going as far as banning Donald Sterling for life, in 2014, due to racist comments that were detrimental to the league, having pulled the All-Star game in 2017 from North Carolina due to the state's bathroom policy becoming law, and with Commissioner Silver recently going on record stating he would consider legalizing medical marijuana for the league. How will LaVar react if his son gets a foul he disagrees with by NBA official Lauren Holtkamp and has the temerity to tell her to, "stay in her lane?" Will the NBA cater to him, or will he be met with the swift hand of Adam Silver, the same way Joel Ebiid was when he was fined for a tweet directed at Ball, to remind him that he is not bigger than the NBA?
The biggest potential losers in this, his massive charade, are his sons. LaVar has all the makings of a cancer that will metastasize through the NCAA in 2019, and the NBA for years to come. It is a matter of whether the respective associations decide to cater and pander to a man that thrives on the spotlight and publicity he brings, or if they hope that maybe he will disappear into the fog if he goes ignored. Should Lonzo be as advertised, the Los Angeles Lakers will have their point guard of the future, but as we've seen in free agencies past, gone are the days of star players staying with the team that drafts them. If LaVar continues to go unchecked and proceeds down his current path, how much more eccentric will he become, and will the twenty-nine other NBA franchises be willing to have him representing them when negotiations begin? While Lonzo's Summer League performance is not necessarily indicative of success during the regular season, it certainly appears that the Ball family will not be going away any time soon, as LaMelo is currently a five-star recruit ranked seventeenth overall for the class of 2019. It may, however, behoove LaVar to let Lonzo and LaMelo's abilities and talent to speak for themselves throughout their careers, and allow himself to become more of a character found in the periphery of their success, before he proves to be more trouble than he is worth. Until that time comes, and it may never come, all eyes and ears are on LaVar Ball as the season approaches, and he would not want it to be any other way.
Alex is the host of the 48 Minutes podcast. If you want to see him scrutinize every decision made regarding the new Masters of the Universe movie, click here.