LaVar Ball, in his time as America’s reigning sports father, inspired many two-word statements, « You are crazy » and « Please go, » along with others that we cannot print on a family website. But today, with two of his sons competing in the NBA for the first time, just two specific words will do: Friday night the pelicans from Lonzo Ball in New Orleans will battle the hornets from LaMelo Ball. In the grand scheme of the NBA, it means very little; Neither team is currently over .500. But for the Ball family, it’s a climax, a dream come true, and proof of the power of determination … even if that determination ticks off pretty much the entire basketball world.
« All my dad does is Definitely planned, « said Lonzo Ball once at the premiere of the reality TV show » Ball in the Family « of the family. « Even when people think he’s crazy, he knows what he’s doing. »
Knowing what you’re doing is one thing. Actually against astronomical adversity … well, that’s something completely different.
I know, I know. LaVar Ball needs to hear more praise like a campfire uses more gas. The compliment to the man only feeds his ego three sizes too big. But sometimes the people who always tell you they’re right actually turn out to be right.
Aside from LaVar’s screams and bragging rights, the absurd declarations that my sons will own the world, and the sputtering attempts to make a full -Service Family Brand.
Think for a second how many sports dads and moms are screaming in the stands of America’s stadiums, fields, and soccer fields. Each and every one of them believe their little gem will make it into the big leagues by cashing seven-digit checks and counting seven-digit followers.
Now think about how many of these Lil ‘LeBrons and Tiny Taurasis actually make it to create the professionals. One in a hundred thousand? One in a million? In the NCAA, for example, only 1.2 percent of men’s basketball players on NCAA teams actually reach a major pro level (i.e., NBA) each year … and that’s good enough for players to become a college team Now think about how many players make it into the top 3 of the NBA draft each year. (You probably don’t need advanced statistics to find out.) Now think of a family that has done this not just once but twice in the past four years.
The Ball brothers left wildly different ways to the same end point. Lonzo followed a typical college path, and LaMelo literally wandered the world, thanks in part to LaVar’s detonation of his authority. But all the way, their dad served as the hype man, laying the foundation and setting off fireworks over them.
« I’ve been telling you since day 1, » LaVar once told TMZ, « since they were babies : « Someone has to be better than Jordan, why not you? «
That hasn’t quite happened yet, but failing to achieve immortality isn’t necessarily a failure to succeed in more humane conditions. Lonzo is now a reliable professional, a key tooth in the Pelicans machine, an effective one Minor players while Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram rule the limelight. For three years he’s on a performance arc resembling longtime « That Guys » like Tony Allen and Iman Shumpert, players who fit systems well enough to be in over a decade staying in the league.
LaMelo is harder to map as he has only played eight games in his entire professional career, and has already lit Twitter with some of the wildest passes on this side of Patrick Mahomes, though it remains to be seen whether the rest of his game justifies that kind of hallelujah.
And let’s throw some love to mean ball brother LiAngelo who – even though he’s not yet in the NBA is – has enough play to land a brief invite to Pistons Camp earlier this season, and a reported G League slot. This, in turn, led to a tweet from LaVar that, frankly, any parent would be proud of:
Currently, LaVar cannot realistically appreciate the continued success of Lonzo or LaMelo. They are now their own men in the hands of teams that have a vested interest in growing their players and brands. What got her to this point doesn’t get her to the next level.
In fact, it could be argued that LaVar’s incessant bragging made the road so much more difficult for Lonzo and LaMelo. Critics took every opportunity to toast their games from every possible angle, and the teams knew the balls were a package deal. Having one of the children meant putting every decision on your team under the hypercritical eye and megaphone judgment of your father.
“I’ve lived with him since I was born. He’s always been like that, « Lonzo told reporters in 2017, sounding as tired as possible in text form. « I let him do all the talking and just try to play. »
The tunnel vision only lasts so long, however, and the effort to match LaVar’s grandiose gaze has put a strain on the family. Lonzo, the trailblazer, had some public disagreement with LaVar over managing its own brand in relation to LaVar’s big baller aspirations. All three ball sons have at times worn the equipment of other shoe and equipment companies.
Big Baller Brand itself has flourished, failed and restarted, full of allegations of embezzlement and corruption. LaVar, who is more chaste and quiet these days, insisted BBB was worth a billion dollars last year, but no one really listens to him on that matter.
The big picture, however, is this: America’s gyms are littered with People who think they’re good enough to play in the league. Talent alone is not enough. You need drive and motivation, and you need a champion in your corner too. And whatever you can say about LaVar Ball, the man can stand up for a cause he believes in.
At least for one night, LaVar Ball can drive a well-deserved victory lap. We’re sure it won’t even cross his mind.
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @jaybusbee or contact him at [email protected]
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