Anyone who played youth sports knows those parents. The ones who attended every game bragging about their child’s superiority to anyone who would begrudgingly listen and yelling out instructions as if the coach didn’t exist. While hated by nearly every other parent and player, these parents are tolerated because of their willingness to perform the banal tasks that no one else will. Also helpful: the secret satisfaction that lies in the fact that, nine times out of ten, their child wasn’t the best on the field.
But those were novice progenitors, and LaVar Ball isn’t one of them. He’s of an entirely different ilk. A Kris Jenner meets Richard Williams meets Joe Jackson — with the intellect and cunning to go along with the impeccable skill of his three sons.
Known for his outrageous commentary and instigatory nature, LaVar has elevated himself to the status of a regular guest on sports talk shows — a platform he uses to both advertise his personal “Big Baller Brand” as well as talk up his sons’ basketball prowess.
Visiting the Big Baller Brand’s website is, quite simply, appalling. The cheapest t-shirt runs for $50, a hat for upwards of double that. The mission statement reads that “Big Baller Brand is a Lifestyle Apparel company founded on core family values, and inspired by the 3 Ball brothers. … We are always striving for excellence through strong work ethic, passion, and commitment to win as a team.”
I would be impressed by LaVar’s ability to turn his sons’ skills into a massive moneymaking scheme if it weren’t for that fact that the entire thing utterly disgusts me. Perhaps LaVar has a desire to help his children succeed, but he has a warped way of showing it. If Kim Kardashian’s sex tape was a covert move to propel the entire family into superstardom, LaVar has built a business empire and a brand all to himself on the backs of his sons’ astonishing stat lines.
And therein lies the exact problem: his sons really do have the capabilities to back up their father’s talk, only the former are often drowned out by the latter. Of course, avid basketball fans will know that in his singular season at UCLA, Lonzo Ball, the eldest of the three, averaged 14.6 points and 7.6 assists a game while securing his place as a top-five NBA draft pick. And that the youngest brother, LaMelo, committed to UCLA before playing a single high school basketball game.
But those who are less tuned in to constant basketball goings-on no doubt believe that, although his sons are popular throughout the country, LaVar is the most famous of the family, and that would just be wrong.
The man has made outrageous claims, including that back in his “heyday” he would have “killed Michael Jordan one-on-one.” While his other ventures can be tentatively linked to promoting his children, LaVar has repeatedly made statements that prove he’s in it almost entirely for himself.
Yes, LaVar is partly responsible for his children’s success, but the language he uses makes it seem as though all of their accomplishments are purely of his making. When he says, “Everything that’s happening I predicted. I saw it before it happened. I dreamed it into existence. I’m speaking it into existence. I willed it to come true,” he is discounting the fact that it his children, not him, who actually possess the gift of greatness.
While the skill of the Ball boys can speak for itself, their father’s bombastic voice has undermined it. If his sons were any less talented, everyone would be dismissing LaVar as a fanatical parent who is woefully unaware that he cannot live and prosper through his children. It is the Ball boys’ basketball aptitude that has justified LaVar’s madness, but what people seem to forget is that without Lonzo, LiAngelo and LaMelo, he would be just another one of those parents on the sideline.
Sophie Goethals is the assistant sports editor. Contact her at [email protected]