Look, we all like LaVar Ball. Truly.
Okay, I’m lying—but you knew that already. Most people enjoy nothing more than hating on LaVar. Still, some of us genuinely can’t help but admire and respect the hustle. The way LaVar has manipulated the media and ruffled its feathers down the path of fortune and fame is nothing short of remarkable. The 50-year-old father of three has turned himself into an instant hot-button topic of conversation in the basketball world.
FILE – In this July 7, 2017, file photo, LaVar Ball, father of Los Angeles Lakers’ Lonzo Ball and UCLA player LiAngelo Ball, watches the Lakers play the Los Angeles Clippers during an NBA summer league basketball game, in Las Vegas. President Donald Trump tweeted Sunday, Nov. 19, that he should have left three UCLA basketball players, including LiAngelo Ball, accused of shoplifting in China in jail after LaVar Ball minimized Trump’s involvement in winning the players’ release during an interview Saturday, Nov. 18, with ESPN. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)
LaVar Ball and his Big Baller Brand are mainstream.
Despite his bravado, I’ve tended to side with Ball throughout most of his antics. The only true issue I’ve ever had with Ball is how he challenges the people that employ his primary asset, eldest son Lonzo.
Lonzo’s employer, the Los Angeles Lakers, have somehow come into the crosshairs of LaVar in situations that have zero to do with his brand. Lakers head coach Luke Walton has been heavily criticized by LaVar through the first half of Lonzo’s rookie season. The elder Ball has said Walton is coaching Lonzo “too soft,” and complained about lineup rotations and Lonzo’s playing minutes. He later claimed that Walton had “lost the team” during an extended losing streak. Walton, to his credit, has taken the high road.
The latest blockbuster Ball quote took aim at the architect of the Lakers’ future, Magic Johnson. LaVar recently stated that when Lonzo becomes a free agent later in his career, he will not re-sign with the Lakers unless his two brothers, LiAngelo and LaMelo, are on the roster as well.
If you are Magic, how would you take this? Would you feel as threatened and insulted by Ball as I am by reading such a thing?
Johnson’s job from day one has been to build the Lakers back to a place of prominence, and he chose Lonzo as the centerpiece of that project. Why would you, as Lonzo’s father, disrespect the process that your son is in prime position to flourish in?
Maybe it’s all just a part of LaVar’s grand marketing plan. As long as he continues to make outrageous claims, his family name will remain a hot draw. That, alone, could be his greatest bargaining chip at any negotiation table. Or maybe he’ll end up alienating himself within the basketball industry, causing all the major players in the game to turn to their backs on him and ultimately black-balling himself. Only the future can tell.
AFRO Sports Editor Perry Green contributed to this article.