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LAVAR BALL

 

He’s brash. He’s bold. He’s never at a loss for words. Hyperbole seems to be his best friend. He is one of the most polarizing figures in basketball, if not all of sports. He is Lavar Ball. All of those previous statements are subjective and up for debate. What is fact is that he is the father of one present UCLA Bruin as well as two future commits. How good all of the kids will be and how prophetic his braggarts claims will turn out to be are still to be decided.

Lamar Ball is the loquacious and controversial father to UCLA freshman phenom, Lonzo Ball and high school standouts (as well as UCLA commits) LiAngelo and LaMelo Ball. Of course the futures of all of the Ball brothers have yet to be determined, but there is consensus opinion (supported by Lavar directly) that Lonzo will leave UCLA regardless of the Bruin’s fate during March Madness and declare for the NBA draft where it it widely assumed he will be a top five pick.

No one is disputing that Lonzo can play. The six foot six inch point guard has been compared favorably to future Hall of Famer Jason Kidd, but as a much greater offense threat and undeniably better shooter. Lonzo shattered the Pac-12 Conference for assists by a freshman, previously held by Kidd and Hall of Famer Gary Payton. It is obviously too early to tell if Lonzo will have the long and distinguished careers of Payton and Kidd, but most project that if he remains healthy, Lonzo stands a considerable chance.

For Lavar Ball the suggestion of chance concerning Lonzo and his other two boys is nearly sacrilege. He has stated that Lonzo is the best player in college (arguably true). He has stated that Lonzo is better today than two time reigning MVP Steph Curry (A reach by all all means, but open for at least amusing discussion). He has stated that Lonzo will dominate the NBA even easier than he has college (he has been a great and impactful player his first and likely only year in college, but to say he has dominated would be a far reaching liberal overuse of the word). He has stated that his sons collectively need to be offered a 1 Billion Dollar brand deal from the sneaker companies (An audacious claim, but if LiAngelo and LaMelo turn out to be as good as Lonzo, it is not inconceivable). Lavar stated that in his prime he would have beaten Michael Jordan one on one. (Lavar averaged 2.2 points in his only season at Washington State, which happened to be the same year Mike averaged 35ppg in he NBA. To say he is reaching is the definition of doing too much).

The confidence that Lavar emits is an important reason he has developed three boys into such renowned prospects. Lonzo’s stock is undeniable. The younger too, still left for great debate. High school senior LiAngelo scored 72 points in a game this year, while sophomore LaMello was featured on Sports Center having scored 92 in a game while LiAngelo was out. Both have committed to UCLA but neither is presently considered on the same level as Lonzo. LiMelo’s 92 point game was in fact criticized in large part to the fact that for over half of the game he literally never made it past half court toward the defensive end of the floor.

Whether the criticism the two younger brothers face is justified, the boasts and projections made by their father are largely dependent on their reaching levels at least comparable to Lonzo. This is specially true when it comes to any company entering into a Billion dollar branding deal for the brothers.

Scorers make the money in the NBA historically from a marketing perspective. Jason Kidd (12.6ppg career average) played in consecutive NBA finals and was widely considered one of the greatest passers and floor generals the game has ever seen, but his endorsement plate was never quite as full as some of the more prolific scorers of his generation (see Allen Iverson). Magic Johnson may have been the marketing exception to the scorers getting all the glory (though Magic did score at a reasonably high 19.5ppg career average). Yet, one thing Magic always had was a magnanimous, larger than life personality, and with Lavar the dominant personality, none of his kids have yet to display any of those traits.

So while the Michael Jordan and even Steph Curry comments put Laver in the “you are doing too much category,” they are not enough to otherwise dismiss his hubris in wanting to revolutionize how kids develop and market brands prior to entering the league. Even if you think he is an arrogant blowhard, you cannot argue that he has developed three kids with unique potential. His Big Baller Brand (BBB) is dependent on the success of at least two of the three brothers on the NBA level, but who can really fault him for this undeniable belief in his boys and setting up an infrastructure for his family and not just outside entities to profit and benefit from the foundation they have created.

For all of those that say he is exploiting his kids… I call BS. Everyone wants to exploit his kids. The colleges will exploit them for free, selling tickets, television revenue and jerseys, to play for free. For those that then argue that they are receiving the value of an education, I call even more BS, because it is a system forced upon theses kids. They are not allowed to play professionally, while others make money off of them. So for a father to understand (even if somewhat inflated) the value that his son(s) possess, and presumably has the best interests of his family, he really needs to be applauded for trying to change the way these kids are potentially viewed as partnered assets instead of disposable commodities.

Richard Williams was once demonized and ostracized for the brash statements he made about his daughter’s dominance and futures. History has shown him to not only be correct but perhaps even understated with the success Venus and Serena achieved. The success of the Ball brothers on the court will ultimately dictate how prophetic and game changing Lavar Ball will be, but in the meantime, if you can get by the brashness and reaching, you hear a man with a definite plan and that should always be acknowledged and cheered.

 

 

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