The biggest story in basketball outside of LeBron James and the Golden State Warriors is arguably none other than Lavar Ball, father of UCLA sensation and soon-to-be NBA lottery pick Lonzo Ball. Lavar, like we’ve seen fathers do in the past, namely Richard Williams and Earl Woods, takes a completely hands-on approach when dealing with his son’s race to professional basketball. What makes Lavar different from Williams and Woods, however, is his unapologetic and sometimes rude antics which may ultimately have a negative effect on his eldest son’s future. With the NBA draft less than a month away, I can’t stress the following point to Mr. Ball enough: SIT DOWN AND BE QUIET!
Earlier in the week news broke that the Los Angeles Lakers, now being run by Hall of Fame point guard and legend, Magic Johnson, aren’t sold on Lonzo Ball and as of today; wouldn’t select him with the No. 2 overall pick. For those uninformed, Lonzo, the eldest of three talented brothers (LiAngelo, 18 and LaMelo, 15) is a Chino Hills native who made his name throughout California with his dynamic passing abilities that aligned him in comparison to NBA greats Jason Kidd and Magic himself. Ball has been a childhood sensation in the Los Angeles area and even took his talents to the UCLA Bruins where he completed a successful season averaging 14.6 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 7.6 assists per game. In the past year, Ball’s college home games were the talk of the town – far outweighing the Lakers current mess.
Now, this is where things get interesting. Lonzo, being a Hollywood kid who has made it very clear on multiple occasions that he wants to be a Laker, now finds himself in a situation where his dream scenario may not come to fruition. Why’s that?
The answer is clear as day: Lavar Ball.
I commend Ball for being a tough-minded parent who raised three young men who could all end up in the NBA together in about four years from now, but when it comes to his eldest son’s draft stock and future assets, Mr. Ball has simply gone too far and the Lakers slight uncertainty regarding Lonzo is just the latest example. To understand this possible thinking from the Lakers you have to look much deeper into the situation.
The problem isn’t Lavar saying his son is better than Steph Curry or Mr. Ball himself declaring he could defeat Michael Jordan in a pickup game of one on one. Those are just silly moments that create great television, the real issue is Mr. Ball’s perceived arrogance in interviews and his clear aim to defeat the sneaker companies which he feels are undervaluing athletes – something he refuses to see happen with his sons.
“We’ve said from the beginning, we aren’t looking for an endorsement deal,” LaVar said, according to ESPN. “We’re looking for co-branding, a true partner. But they’re not ready for that because they’re not used to that model. But hey, the taxi industry wasn’t ready for Uber, either.”
Last month, Adidas, Nike and Under Armour all retracted their offers to Lonzo on a potentially lucrative sneaker deal after negotiations with Lavar didn’t go as planned. Mr. Ball made it very clear that he wanted a $1 billion deal for his three sons which would include promoting his self-owned Big Baller Brand in the process. The idea isn’t too far-fetched, it just hasn’t been done on a very successful level since Michael Jordan launched his brand in 1984. Jordan is under the Nike umbrella; however, he has his own sector of athletes and allocations within the brand. Mr. Ball and the Big Baller Brand wish to create the same magic Jordan accomplished. Kanye West is another artist who was able to bring his brand under the Adidas umbrella and create a highly successful clothing and sneaker line. The problem for the Balls as it stands right now is simple, Lonzo is not Michael Jordan and he isn’t the cultural icon that West is worldwide.
Demanding a $1 billion contract with zero NBA experience is one that Lavar had to have known was simply out of reach. Perhaps he is creating a foundation for when Lonzo becomes a star down the line? It’s a possibility but still a reach. Nike co-founder Phil Knight called the price tag “a little bit steep,” but didn’t stop short of praising Lonzo as an “Awfully great player.” Knight confirmed that Nike indeed had interest.
What’s clear is that Lavar is trying to reinvent the wheel. For years since Jordan redefined the game, athletes put their signatures on the first or second offer they receive, eager to start making endorsement dollars and commercial exposure. Mr. Ball is certainly not following the script and should receive some credit for playing hardball, knowing that if he ends up winning, the difference can be tens of millions of dollars.
His sneaker endeavors and daring personality have caused headaches for some, but his biggest issue thus far came about when visiting Fox Sports 1’s, The Herd radio show. In an incident which led to national debate and even a now classic rant from The Breakfast Club radio host Charlamagne aimed at Fox Sports 1 journalist Jason Whitlock, we saw Mr. Ball in a troublesome argument with the co-host of The Herd, Kristine Leahy. The two went back and forth about their issues with one another when Lavar exclaimed Leahy to “Stay in your lane.”
This was ultimately the last straw for a lot of individuals who were already on the fence about Lavar and his perceived antics. The man no one knew just a few short months ago is now being examined as either a troubled man with issues or a brilliant guy who has learned how to create entertainment by using the media to his advantage. For now, that question and debate still remain to be answered. If I can give Mr. Ball any advice moving forward at least up until the NBA draft, it would be this: Stay out of the spotlight, stay out of the newspapers, let Lonzo control the situation and his destiny.
After all, it could be the difference between your son going to one of the game’s greatest franchises in the Lakers, or being miserable in a small market location with the Sacremento Kings or Orlando Magic.