Let’s put aside all the brash talk, bravado and grandiose gestures for a moment and notice LaVar Ball is doing a few things for his basketball playing kids that should be admired.
For starters, he’s a father that’s very involved in his sons’ lives. He’s not an absentee dad that left his children for their mother to raise. Lord knows there have been far too many of those when it comes to kids playing sports in high school, college or on the professional level. He has never abandoned that responsibility and as basic as that might seem, he should be commended for that as every father who cares should.
Also, building his Big Baller Brand is a bold move that shouldn’t be dismissed. The majority of young players — like 99.9 percent of them — would take the easy money from one of the big shoe companies like Nike, Adidas and Under Armour and make more millions for Phil Knight and the like. Instead, LaVar Ball is creating a brand around his sons that could blossom into something that can benefit their family for years to come. There was plenty of BBB apparel Tuesday night when the Lakers paid their annual visit to the Garden.
Most of all, LaVar seems to have raised some decent kids, the incident involving LiAngelo in China notwithstanding. The Lakers rave about Lonzo Ball, the rookie point guard from UCLA who is still settling in on his first trip around the league. He seems oblivious to all the attention he and his father receive and that’s to their credit.
“Obviously, with how big he is and the social media that exists, everything he does gets scrutinized by everybody and I think he’s handled himself very well,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said before the game. “I think it helps his teammates all love playing with him and his coaches all love working with him. He’s just one of those guys that’s really nice to have around. When he’s able to stay focused on what’s most important and what we’re trying to do on the basketball court and not let the outside noise influence his head and his mindset, that’s a good quality to have for a professional athlete.”
The Lakers don’t seem to mind the noisy old man, either.
“There have been no problems,” said center Brook Lopez, the longtime Net now playing in Los Angeles. “He’s been nothing but supportive. He’s a great guy and he’s great to have around at games. Like I said, he’s super supportive and a good basketball mind as well.”
Problem is, all the positive things get lost in translation and an ego that gets out of control on camera. The nation seems to be in an uproar that he would dare take sons LiAngelo out of UCLA and LaMelo out of Chino Hills (Calif.) High School to begin their professional careers in Lithuania. Both will have to mature quickly just to survive, though they could face less pressure playing in Lithuania than had they remained in the States.
Ultimately, LiAngelo, LaMelo and Lonzo will have to rest on their own merits, which is never easy for anyone trying to break into pro ball. Lonzo entered Tuesday night’s game shooting 32 percent from the field and 24.6 from the 3-point line. He was averaging 8.6 points and 7.1 assists per game. There are growing pains. Dad may not be able to add more pressure than what already comes with the job.
“He’s got a lot of pressure on him,” Walton said, “that comes from being a starting point guard for the L.A. Lakers as a rookie. It’s the toughest position in our league to play and there’s a ton of responsibility that comes with that. He’s done a good job handling it.”
We’ve heard parents boast about their kids before: Richard Williams and Earl Woods were bragging about their kids long before they became tennis and golf champions.
Sure LaVar talks too much and too often. Let’s hope all the positives aren’t lost in the delivery.