Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle ripped ESPN for a report in which LaVar Ball criticized Lakers coach Luke Walton, arguing the network should back the coaches because of its NBA partnership. I don’t agree with that. But I do agree that publications should stop giving space to Ball.
There they were, just a few days before the NBA draft — Lonzo and LaVar Ball yukking it up with Jimmy Kimmel.
And after Lonzo assured Kimmel he didn’t find his father annoying, Jimmy followed by asking, “What is he about?”
Responded Lonzo, a rookie point guard for the Lakers: “He just wants the best for his kids.”
Seven months later, it’s pretty clear that’s not the case. LaVar Ball wants one thing and one thing alone: what’s best for LaVar Ball.
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It’s hard writing about America’s most infamous sports dad, because giving him publicity feels like defeat. LaVar has gone from amusing to controversial to annoying to — in some people’s minds, at least — revolting in one year flat.
Yet regardless of his absurdity, platforms for him abound — whether it be ESPN, his Facebook reality show or the very space you’re reading now. Are you not fed up with it?
The latest Ball-related beef popped up this weekend when ESPN’s Jeff Goodman reported that LaVar said Lakers coach Luke Walton “doesn’t have control of the team no more. They don’t want to play for him.”
This prompted Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle — who serves as head of the NBA Coaches Association — to rip ESPN for publishing Ball’s quote. Carlisle argued that because ESPN has a partnership with the NBA, it should back the coaches. I don’t agree with that.
But I do agree with Carlisle’s assertion that publications should stop giving space to the same “loudmouth blowhard.”
Let’s go through some of LaVar’s highlights over the past year or so.
1) Last spring, he persuaded Lonzo to eschew a shoe contract with an established company so he could promote the Ball-created Big Baller Brand, whose original sneakers went on sale for $495. Given how mightily Lonzo has struggled this season — not to mention that BBB just received an “F” grade from the Better Business Bureau — this move likely cost Lonzo millions of dollars.
2) When LaVar Ball appeared on the Colin Cowherd show last May, co-host Kristine Leahy asked him a question about why BBB didn’t have any women’s apparel. LaVar responded by telling her to “stay in your lane,” which was, if not sexist, at least dismissive and inappropriate.
3) In September, LaVar jeopardized the college eligibility of his youngest son, LaMelo, by creating a sneaker for him. One month later, LaVar pulled LaMelo, a junior, out of high school so he could home school and prepare him for UCLA. LaVar didn’t like that Chino Hills High School coach Stephan Gilling didn’t want LaMelo shooting “50 shots a game” anymore.
“Get along with me, guess what? You go 35-0,” LaVar said. “When you try and do it your way: Goodbye.”
4) In December, three weeks after LaVar’s middle son, LiAngelo, was arrested in China for shoplifting, LaVar pulled him out of UCLA. Not because he was trying to discipline him, but because UCLA coach Steve Alford had suspended him (and two of his teammates) indefinitely. LiAngelo was not expected to be drafted by an NBA team, and now, like LaMelo, he won’t get a college education. At least not on scholarship, because LaVar hooked each of them up with an agent and sent them to Lithuania. The reason? To get them both to the Lakers by 2020.
These aren’t examples censuring LaVar’s self-promotion. They aren’t examples of ludicrous statements, either, such as when Ball said he could have beaten Michael Jordan one-on-one, or that Lonzo was better as a freshman at UCLA than Steph Curry is now.
Comments such as those might be obnoxious, but they aren’t necessarily harmful to his children. Pretty much everything else above is, though.
I suppose you could make the argument that this is all entertainment, and if the public wants to enjoy the train wreck, the sports media should indulge it. But I also wonder if there is a responsibility beyond getting clicks.
You know there are parents out there watching what LaVar is doing and using it as a blueprint. They’re seeing that the more ridiculous your words and more reckless your actions, the more attention you garner. They’re seeing that the squeaky, pompous, bloviating, self-serving wheel is getting every ounce of grease it desires.
In the world of sports, LaVar Ball is one of a kind. Unfortunately, if he is continually given a platform, he won’t be for much longer.