As entertaining as the father of Lonzo Ball is, he is becoming a distraction. Every week Lavar Ball is in the news. Either Steph Curry isn’t as good as his son. Or, his son is going to the Lakers. Or, UCLA is winning the NCAA title even though UCLA couldn’t get to the Pac-12 championship title game. Or his latest, that Michael Jordan would have been served had Lavar played him (Lavar averaged 2 points at Washington State). It borders on the ridiculous if you are being generous and the stupid if you are being a realist.
“Back in my heyday, I would kill Michael Jordan one-on-one. I would just back Jordan in and lift him off the ground and call a foul every time he fouls me when I do a jump hook to the right or left.” (USA Today)
The most hilarious part of his Michael Jordan shade was when Lavar said Jordan wasn’t fast enough to go around him. In his USA Today interview, and kudos to Josh Peter for giving Ball want he wants, more celebrity, Ball says his kids drive $100,000 dollar BMW’s and he is angling for a $1 billion dollar shoe contract for his sons.
Last night the Ball family house in Chino Hills was burglarized while the family was watching Lonzo’s younger brothers LaMelo and LiAngelo play in a basketball game according to TMZ. (LiAngelo is a senior who committed to UCLA and has been rated by Scout.com as a 3-star recruit).
Lavar Ball is predictable. He wants celebrity and fame and to be talked about 24-7. His son Lonzo is the one with the pressure in the upcoming tournament. Anything but a Final Four appearance and the UCLA campaign is a failure. Because Lonzo is the one big name in the draft, anything but Rookie of the Year and he has underachieved.
There is this desire to tell Lavar Ball to just shut up and let your kid be. Let him be the famous one, not you.
It is not abnormal for parents, particularly parents who didn’t achieve high levels of professional athletic success, to live vicariously through the achievements of their children. Many parents dote on their children and think their kids are the best that ever lived at whatever they do. A helicopter parent is one that hovers over their children constantly like Lavar Ball.
But the problem Lavar Ball presents is unique. There have been aggressive NBA fathers before. Joe Bryant, father of Kobe, was unhappy at his son’s playing time his rookie year and went to Jerry West to discuss it. But it was not a public rebuke. Joe Bryant kept it as in-house as he could.
Lavar Ball likes attention. He likes his name in the paper. He likes microphones in his face. He is enjoying all the notoriety of having a son who is a dominant athlete. He has two other sons with pro potential as well. But at some point he has to stay in his lane.
GM’s are not going to dissect the father. It is the son they care about. Is he a winner? What are his work habits? Is he a willing teammate? Is he coachable? What is his vertical? What is his speed? Can he finish at the rim with contact? Can he shake off his defender in an iso set? What kind of passes can he make under stress? Bounce pass? Chest pass? Dribble in the lane? Alley-oop? No look reverse? Does he have aptitude for pick and roll? That is how Lonzo Ball will be judged.
But there is the issue of his father.
Is he going to be coaching from the sidelines? Is he going to be critiquing every play? If a teammate of Lonzo Ball fumbles one of his passes is Lavar going to rip him on social media? Is he going to second guess the coach? Does he think he knows more than the coach?
Lavar Ball doesn’t seem to have much verbal discipline. He may not understand how his actions affect a team because in college it doesn’t really matter. Most will not be pros. They play and then they will go in a different direction. But pro players hate distractions. They love routine. They hate being asked questions about teammates family and what they said. It is a slippery slope.
Many years ago, Glen Rice’s wife criticized Phil Jackson during the 2000 NBA Finals and it became a media storm. That was before social media. Parents of NBA players that are active on social media like Draymond Green’s mother aren’t new. They give their opinion, popular or not. The problem is Lavar Ball is saying something weekly. He seems to be addicted to the attention and fame. He has an arrogance identity. Is he going to be a distraction? That is what GM’s of teams that run very tight ships like the Dallas Mavericks have to wonder.
The good news for whoever drafts Lonzo Ball, he will have a younger brother at UCLA. So his father may be occupied and not paying attention. The NBA hopes so. I can only hope Lonzo Ball drops to the number 5 slot and is drafted by the Sacramento Kings. It would be perfect justice.