By Zaheer E. Clarke
Published October 30, 2017
For some individuals, LaVar Ball is the “worst thing to happen to basketball in the last hundred years.” On the other hand, right now, he may be the best thing for the NBA.
If you follow the NBA and College Basketball, then for the past year-and-a-half you must have heard about LaVar Ball. In 2015, Ball was introduced to the world as the father of three sons, Lonzo, LaMelo and LiAngelo, all elite basketball prospects. He and his wife Tina, a biracial couple, coached an Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) team named Big Ballers VXT for which their three sons played. Thereafter in 2015-2016 prep basketball season, all three brothers played for their high school team, Chino Hills High, which went undefeated. Chino Hills amassed a record of 35-0 to be crowned sectional, state and national champions. This was a true Hollywood story.
Starting in late 2016, LaVar blew up on social media when he made some bodacious comments regarding his sons, their talent level, their future destinations and even his own skillset. For one, he guaranteed that his son, Lonzo, would win the national college basketball title playing for the UCLA. Unfortunately, UCLA didn’t. They lost to Kentucky in the Sweet Sixteen round of the NCAA tournament. He further remarked that Lonzo was a better than Steph Curry. He even went down the sacrilegious viewpoint, according to some, when he claimed that back in his day, he would kill Michael Jordan in one-on-one basketball. The basketball world went berserk.
Many have dismissed LaVar’s comments, pointing to his constant promotion of his family’s Big Baller Brand and have described his attitude as overbearing. Nike’s global sports marketing director, George Raveling, even said that LaVar was “the worst thing to happen to basketball in the last hundred years.”
Interestingly, though not perfect, LaVar isn’t the worst thing to happen to basketball in the last hundred years. For the time being, I actually think he is good and might actually be great for basketball, especially the NBA.
According to the Harris Poll of last year, pro basketball, the NBA, ranks below the pro football (NFL) and pro baseball (MLB) among the most popular professional sports in the US. Even the most ardent NBA fans will concede that they pay special attention to the NBA only during the playoffs, which runs for approximately nine weeks from mid-April to mid-June each year. The other 25 weeks of the regular season, barring games on Christmas Day and Martin Luther King’s Day, the attention of the fans are not searingly affixed on the NBA product.
LaVar Ball, however, in just the first few weeks of the NBA season, has drawn attention to games that the average would not pay attention to. His son Lonzo, plays for the Los Angeles Lakers, a storied franchise in NBA history. However, the Lakers have not been contenders for the NBA title in seven years and have not made the playoff in four. In fact, the Lakers have finished last or second-to-last in their division or conference in each of the past four seasons. Actually, they have not won 28 of 82 games in any of the past four season. This is abysmal given the 16 NBA titles and Hall-of-Famers such as Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, Jerry West, Shaquille O’Neal, Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar who have played for them.
Nevertheless, in the first ten days of the season, LaVar’s comments and antics have focused the average NBA fan’s eyes on games they wouldn’t normally watch this early in the season especially given the recent vintage of the Lakers regular season records. LaVar’s son, Lonzo was drafted number two overall by the Los Angeles Lakers in this year of the NBA draft. LaVar had predicted this in late 2016 when he said that his son, then a freshman in college at UCLA, would only play for the Lakers. As a matter of fact, leading up to the draft, Lonzo had personal workout sessions with only one team, the Lakers, validating his father’s wishes.
Lonzo lit up the summer league, winning MVP, as the Lakers won the summer league title. However, summer games are for developmental players who are at the end of a roster trying to make the final 12 or 15 and rookies fresh in the league. The real stuff begins against grown men in October at the start of the NBA season. Lonzo’s first game drew national attention, though he was manhandled in a sense by Patrick Beverley in a loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, with whom the Lakers share the Staples Centre for now. They won against the Phoenix Suns with Lonzo doing a near Magic Johnson imitation, scoring 29 points while dishing nine assists and grabbing 11 rebounds. Lakers lost the next game, with Lonzo returning to his first game’s box score disappointment.
LaVar declared that his son and the Lakers wouldn’t lose again that week. Washington Wizards, a perennial above .500 and playoff team in the Eastern Conference in the past four seasons, were up next. Normally, when a team, which has been so bad over the past four years, plays a team, which has been good over the past four years, hardly anybody watches. Nevertheless, LaVar’s comments had everyone looking forward to the game. Several believed that Lonzo and the Lakers would be smoked away by the Wizards. Several Wizards players along with commentators and pundits predicted that John Wall, a former number one draft pick, would annihilate Lonzo and the Lakers. In fact, the Lakers won, even without Lonzo being spectacular. To be fair, hardly anyone would be watching the game and the result if it wasn’t for LaVar’s audacious comments leading up to the game and over the past few years.
Each night that Lonzo and the Lakers play from now to the end of the season, fans will be watching to see how the Lakers perform and especially Lonzo in those matchups against the elite NBA point guards. LaVar made some bold predictions before the start of the season. He guaranteed that Lakers would win 50 games and make the playoffs, reversing the trend of the past four years. He further said if the Lakers meet the Warriors in the Western Conference finals, the Laker would win and go on to the finals to win an NBA title.
Whether, what LaVar says comes true, which we highly doubt, whether you like his parenting style or bodacious attitude, one thing we have to admit, he has been great for the NBA especially on slow nights. When just-beaten Wizards coach Scott Brooks says he wishes he had a father like LaVar, you know he can’t be that bad after all.
Until next time…
© Zaheer Clarke
Zaheer E. Clarke is a freelance sportswriter and an award-winning blogger. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Facebook at Zaheer Facts, Lies & Statistics, or on Twitter at @zaheerclarke.
This blog article was published in the Western Mirror on October 30, 2017.