LaVar Ball, father of UCLA freshman superstar Lonzo, has been in the news a ton lately. The ur-Sports Dad has wedged his way into every inch of airtime offered to him to talk shit about NBA legends, call their sons losers, and proclaim the supreme basketball ability of his three large sons. In case you were still on the fence about whether Ball meant any of this or was simply a hype man using his newfound platform to promote his brand, he said he’d have beaten Michael Jordan back in his day.
He would absolutely not have beaten Michael Jordan since he was a crummy Pac-10 player at the time, but that’s not the point. Ball started a sportswear company centered around his sons and he’s (smartly!) using the media’s ravenous attention for controversy to promote it. It’s not his fault that people keep tripping over themselves to give him a platform.
Anyway, Steve Kerr sees through it. Kerr spoke to a Chicago-area ESPN station yesterday and pointed out that while Ball has been successful in getting attention, he could maybe cool it for the sake of his kids.
“The fact that everybody keeps talking about him, he seems to be accomplishing whatever he’s trying to accomplish, because the things he says are so outlandish,” Kerr said. “But he keeps getting headlines, and I guess that’s what he wants.
“I don’t think it’s helping his kids,” Kerr continued, referring to Lonzo and his two younger brothers, prep standouts LiAngelo and LaMelo. “I think it’d be better for them if they can just play and have fun and not have to hear that every day, but whatever. It’s all part of him.”
For his part, Lonzo has laughed off suggestions that his dad has gone too far or is providing distractions, because that’s how he’s always been.
“He’s been like that my whole life. It’s nothing new to me,” Lonzo Ball said Thursday. “He’s got a camera in front of his face now, so y’all are seeing it for the first time. ... He’s never going to change for the cameras. He’s been the same his whole life.”
The eldest Ball is such a good NBA prospect that his dad’s incessant talking won’t change his draft status either way, and LaVar’s reported penchant for criticizing his son’s coaches is less likely to rattle cages at the NBA level. It’s worth considering that there’s a very tangible upside to LaVar’s newfound status as a public figure. All the Ball brothers will be playing for UCLA, and the outsized popularity of the Ball family could help with recruiting. When the Balls eventually get around to signing endorsement deals, they’re going to make more money because all three of them are household names to the SportsCenter-watching public, courtesy of their dad.
LaVar Ball is pitching his family as a dynasty, poised to take over the NBA. While Lonzo certainly appears to be the real deal, middle Ball brother LiAngelo is a three-star recruit and LaMelo, the youngest, is 15 and chiefly famous for scoring 92 fake points in a fake high school game. They could all turn out to be great, but it’s too early to tell. Perhaps Kerr is right and they’d benefit from a reduced public profile—and a dampening of expectations. Regardless, they seem to be cool with their proud father and LaVar Ball won’t be putting the brakes on the hype train anytime soon.