In the 2004 movie Napolean Dynamite, the main character’s uncle, Uncle Rico, has some classic lines that depict a type of person that chances are we all know, or have had conversations with at some point or another. In the movie, Uncle Rico, in an effort to showcase his arm strength, claims to have the ability to throw a football over a set of mountains, and then later on while trying to convince others of his prior success on the gridiron, adamantly believes if only his coach would have put him in for the fourth quarter, they’d have been state champs, no doubt in his mind.
We all know “that guy” or have known “that guy” at some point in our lives. Whether it’s the varsity jacket wearing guy some five-plus years after graduation, or the trash-talking guy who you had to go back and check your yearbooks to make sure he was actually in fact on the team. All too often these people are simply attention seekers, living for that next “like” on their Facebook status or Instagram post, probably while trash talking on Twitter at professional athletes when they don’t make the game-winning shot or the needed clutch hit.
On television, we have unfortunately seen a rise in this type of behavior, by hosts who seem to believe that by saying the most outlandish things they will generate conversation, web-hits, ratings, and therefore attention. A few years back, one of the biggest clowns of sports talk, Skip Bayless, was basically owned on ESPN’s First Take by Detroit’s own, Jalen Rose, when Skip had compared his own playing style in high school to that of “Pistol Pete” Maravich. Rose came on the show and embarrassed Skip by pointing out that while playing junior varsity as a junior, Skip averaged just 1.4 points per game during his high school career, and then threw shade Skip’s way by giving him a more fitting nickname, “Water Pistol Pete.”
Now, I couldn’t care less about Skip’s high school statistics, or whether he even played high school basketball to begin with. Hell I didn’t, but this won’t be about which NBA superstar my driveway basketball skills most closely mirrored either. Instead, what I do care about is the fact that Skip Bayless for example, and the conversations or run-ins with “that guy” that we all know in our lives, continuously spit out these horrendous takes on sports, willing to take such asinine (to quote Stephen A. Smith) claims to their graves if need be for the sake of trying to catch our eyes and ears.
Fast-forwarding some fifteen years, former varsity jacket wearing guy is now in his mid-to-late thirties. Married, three children, and perhaps a few waist sizes larger, the varsity jacket now hangs deep in the closet or packed away in the basement somewhere, replaced instead by a newer, fresher crowning achievement, his teenage kids. Yeah, we’ve all seen this guy too. This guy thinks his kids are the best on the team, they’re going to be the superstars, and the only thing that could possibly keep them from getting there is either bad coaching, weak teammates, a referee with an agenda, or a horrible combination of all three.
This is the parent that yells the loudest from the sidelines, typically standing very close to the field or court, often even right next to the head coach, while giving him his two cents. He’s the guy that coaches his kids from the sidelines, even if that direction is opposite of the instructions given out by the actual head coach. This guy is out there, and for those of you who have never met this guy, let me introduce you to LaVar Ball.
LaVar Ball is the father of three very talented teenage basketball players from California who are becoming very popular in the sports world. However, they usually have to play second fiddle to the headliner in the family, their father. Eldest son, Lonzo is a dynamic freshman at UCLA, leading his team into the Sweet 16 of this year’s NCAA Tournament, and is projected to potentially be the overall #1 pick in the upcoming NBA draft. LaVar’s two younger sons, LiAngelo and LaMelo, are currently high school teammates, and both are following their older brother’s footsteps by verbally committing to play for UCLA.
Since LaVar’s kids have burst onto the scene, LaVar has been the one hogging the spotlight by making all of the headlines, and rarely for anything good. Trying to create a brand centered around his kids with the hopes of landing the richest endorsement deals in the history of sports is his goal, however while driving the car that manages and acts as the PR rep for his kids, so far it seems about as wise as handing the keys to your drunkest friend on a Saturday night bar crawl.
LaVar has already said that all three of his sons will be one-and-done players at UCLA immediately declaring themselves for the NBA Draft after just one season in Westwood. While Lonzo is a lock to make such dreams come true, his two younger brothers are anything but a sure thing. With just a 4-star and 3-star recruiting ranking, the two brothers should probably pump the brakes on the assumption that they’ll blossom into the next big thing, even just at the college level. But of course, let me backtrack a bit, LaVar should pump the brakes because after all, again, he is the one driving this car.
Ever since the NBA created the “one-and-done” rule which requires high school basketball players to enroll at a college or play overseas for a year before entering the NBA draft. We have seen dozens of players like Lonzo try their hand at the pro game after their freshman season. With Lonzo receiving comparisons to Jason Kidd’s size and style of play, few doubt he will find success in the league, however just how good will he be is the multi-million dollar question. Fortunately, LaVar already knows not only how good he will be, but also how good he is right now.
A month or so ago, LaVar let the NBA world know that his son, Lonzo, would only play for the hometown Los Angeles Lakers, which he later, backtracked on and re-worded—kind of. Raising on that, LaVar went even further this week to say that if drafted by the woeful Lakers, his impact would rival the impact that Laker legend Magic Johnson had on the franchise. Yes, that Magic Johnson. Three-time MVP winner, Hall of Famer, NBA champion, the orchestrator of the Showtime Lakers.
Magic wasn’t the only former NBA MVP LaVar compared his son to, or even ranked below his son. LaVar also said this year that currently, Lonzo is a better player than Golden State Warriors’ guard, Stephen Curry. Doing one better, saying that if Lonzo and Steph swapped places, there is no way that Steph would have been able to get UCLA to where they are right now, and that Golden State would be better off with Lonzo as well. This topic always makes me shake my head when people want to ask the annual question, “Is (insert dominant college team) better than (insert worst team in the NBA, NFL, NHL, etc)?” The answer of course is always no, and it’s always going to be no. And in this circumstance asking as if the NBA’s MVP of the past two seasons wouldn’t do better than Lonzo is at UCLA right now? Just stop.
Naturally, LaVar’s ridiculous takes don’t stop there, nor do they stop with just his oldest son Lonzo. LaVar, a former college hooper himself, can’t go without letting us know just how good he was back in his day as well. You see, just because that old varsity jacket doesn’t fit anymore, doesn’t mean the memories aren’t there (no matter how foggy and embellished they have now become). LaVar Ball played one season with Washington State in college averaging 2 points and 2 rebounds per game. Now let’s be clear about one thing, in order to even make a Division 1 college team let alone even get some minutes here and there, suggests you have to be a good player, far better than the average college student. That being said, when LaVar Ball looks back to that time of his life and tries to tell us he could beat Michael Jordan one-on-one, I can’t help but wonder if this man is sending out a cry for help. By the way, while Ball was putting up 2 and 2 each night up in Washington, Michael Jordan was averaging 35 points a night for the Chicago Bulls.
I am not sure if Jordan has responded to such incredulous claims. My thought is maybe he is doing what we all should be doing when LaVar speaks, and that is to simply not even acknowledge the unbelievable things that have been coming out of his mouth. However, one NBA star couldn’t ignore LaVar’s “hot takes.” As the face of the NBA, LeBron James recently heard his children’s names being talked about by Ball in regards to his claim that LeBron’s kids will have the added pressure of having to live up to the high standards set by their father. LeBron responded by telling Ball to “Keep my kids’ names out of your mouth. Keep my family out of your mouth. This is dad to dad. It’s a problem now.”
LaVar Ball of course deflected the criticism, refusing to apologize and claiming his statements were not malicious and that LeBron was being too “touchy” on the subject. While he may be right, LaVar has been speeding steadily down a very slippery slope for a long time now and while it won’t affect himself, it could be already tarnishing the brand he is just starting to try and create for his kids.
With his three sons all showing the potential to have long-lasting basketball careers, LaVar is doing everything humanly possible to make sure that you know the name “Ball.” Unfortunately though, it seems to me his number one priority is that you also remember to put “LaVar” in front of it.