There is a scene in his Facebook reality show in which Lavar Ball decides his recovering from a stroke wife doesn’t need speech therapy from trained pathologists. He decides to teach her himself. Who knows his wife better than Lavar knows her? No one, except her parents. This is the same argument, give or take a few Lavar feuds, he makes by pulling the most talented Ball-er out of high school and educating him on his own. Lavar is now father, coach, personal trainer, chemistry teacher to LaMelo. He will homeschool LaMelo and then drop him into the UCLA freshman class (of 2019) just like his brothers before him exept LaMelo Ball is a special kind of athlete. He’s a scorer and has all of his father’s arrogance and swag.
No one is questioning Ball’s ability to train his kids. Oldest, Lonzo was the number two pick in the draft. Lavar has a certain level of success to prop up his methods and make him annoyingly right. But the full educational route: is he even qualified?
This latest Lavar story reeks of privilege and entitlement, not to mention Lavar pulling rank. It is one more Lavar Ball fatigue whereas you eye-roll and sigh on the count of ten. Lavar just cannot stay out the limelight. This particular beef though has consequences in the way his mindless promotion does not. He is using his youngest son to settle a score, holding his educational ceiling hostage. It is not Lavar promotion as much as it is Lavar better not be played with. In other words, don’t piss him off.
“I’m not dealing with the coach over there. I’m not dealing with the administration over there. I don’t want no distractions on Melo. So therefore I’m going to home school him and make the best basketball player ever. It’s a new coach and I don’t like him one bit.”
Translate Lavar speak: the coach won’t do what I want him to do. Dennis Lattimore runs a traditional set and Lavar wants LaMelo in a D’Antoni like system where he can jack up threes. Lavar has the last word but his leverage is reductive now that Lonzo is in the NBA and middle son LiAngelo is considered an average prospect at best.
Lavar has only one card to play. That is youngest son LaMelo who has created anticipatory buzz. Lavar is a meddling parent. You can’t blame him for having a vision but you can blame him for not stepping back and letting coaches coach. Lavar has been known to throw shade in the press, of which a lot went ignored, but now he has gone real big. He has removed the biggest asset the Chino Hills school district has, apparently because Coach Lattimore wouldn’t add four players Lavar wanted him to add. The Chino Hills superintendent backs Lattimore up, according to the Los Angeles Times. Now there will be no competing for championships for Chino Hills while Lavar gloats about driving the district into irrelevancy. But the honest truth is, even for those who don’t trust his motives, he is the parent. He has every right to take his kid out of a school he doesn’t like. Home schooling has become far more sophisticated and ordinary.
Lavar wants LaMelo in college which means he’s going to have to make him eligible. Like everyone else, LaMelo will have to pass the necessary courses. UCLA isn’t an easy school to get into, not even for athletes. Either Lavar hires a teacher/tutor or he cuts out his public appearances and self promotions and does it himself.
Regardless, LaMelo will be in the NBA at some point. He is too talented. Lavar will take all the credit. As for his dream of all three sons playing for the Lakers? Somebody wake Lavar up because his dreaming is blowing up his brain. LiAngelo isn’t that good and the Lakers plan to use all their cap space on veterans so when LaMelo hits the NBA the Lakers, a) won’t have money, and b), won’t be at the top of the lottery.
The danger about Lavar is that he inspires other parents who don’t have his financial resources and think they alone can create a NBA superstar. The book is still out on Lonzo, even as the 2nd pick. He is not the best Lakers rookie. Kyle Kuzma is. But parents not named Lavar may look at Lavar’s example and try to imitate him but with disastrous effects. Even if all fails for Lavar, his financial resources mean his sons are never going to suffer. Not so with lower income students who look at the NBA as their financial lottery ticket. If the NBA fails for them, what then?
Of course that is not the Lavar Ball way, thinking about and preparing for failure. The first class of Lavar Ball High is what you probably think it is. Winning Isn’t Everything, Beating You Is.
Graduation, June 2019. Prom details still in flux.
photo via llananba