By: JUSTIN THOMPSON (‘17)
Among all major sports, the NBA seems to have the most ego maniacs. Players regularly put their bloated paychecks above team success, sacrificing winning in the process. Big name stars are synonymous with shameless self-endorsement and even go as far as having their own line of equipment emblazoned with their initials or insignia. However, for all the big mouths in the league today, one big mouth stands alone. Lavar Ball averaged 2 points a game at Washington State more than 30 years ago, yet somehow he currently receives more airtime on major sports networks than almost any star player. Lavar has three sons, Lonzo, Lamelo and Liangelo, who have all committed to play for UCLA in the coming years. In the last few months he has made headlines for his extravagant and highly controversial claims about himself and his sons. At various times he has said that:
- Lonzo is “better than Steph Curry”- For the record, Lonzo averaged 15 points and 8 assists last season at UCLA and is expected to be drafted very high in this years draft. However, without even playing a game, it is completely outlandish and unfair to put that sort of pressure on his son. Lonzo will undoubtedly blossom into a competitive player at the next level, but chances are he will never come close to matching Curry’s success. It would be one thing if he could get his 48 year old body out on the court to prove his claim. But senselessly setting the bar so unattainably high for his own son reveals Lavar’s cowardice and unwillingness to fight his own battles.
- UCLA didn’t win the national championship because they started “three white guys” with “slow foot-speed”- Three of UCLA’s starters, T.J. Leaf, Bryce Alford and Thomas Welsh were indeed white. In their final game of the season, Lonzo looked overwhelmed as Kentucky point guard D’Aaron Fox mercilessly maneuvered around him for easy layups and a game high 39 points. Lonzo scored 10. Kentucky won and UCLA, with their three white guys, were sent packing. No Lavar, it wasn’t the white guys’ fault that UCLA lost, it was Lonzo’s inability to play defense. Sidenote: All three Ball sons are biracial. In all fairness, I really do like Lonzo and his two brothers. They play smart basketball, rarely brag to the media and generally keep to themselves. They seem to be well mannered and respectful. Most importantly, they didn’t inherit their father’s constantly running mouth.
- In his prime, Lavar would have “killed Michael Jordan in one-on-one”- This is the soundbite that really put Lavar Ball on the map. The man who could only muster 2 measly points a game on a pathetic college basketball team thinks he could beat the GOAT? Of course not. This quote does however reveal something important about Ball and his true motives. Barring some undiagnosed mental disorder, Lavar probably doesn’t believe most of the stuff that comes out of his own massive pie-hole. It’s all in the name of self-promotion. His claims conjure up visions of Vince McMahon’s vein-popping, red-in-the-face promotion of WWE and the XFL, and of Bill Veeck inserting a 3 foot 7 inch little person into the lineup for a St. Louis Browns baseball game in 1961. All of these men have an iron-like grasp on an image that they are trying to cultivate. They shamelessly self promote and will go to unimaginable lengths in the name of money and publicity. In this respect, Lavar isn’t some groundbreaking force in the world of sports, he is only the latest link in a very big chain of very big mouths.
A Google search will present you with an even longer list of quotes from this ultimate helicopter parent. As bad as he seems, Lavar isn’t even the bad guy in this ordeal. ESPN has willingly given him a national microphone for his idiocy. If local papers were the only one covering him, he would have never exploded onto the national scene in the way that he did. By giving him such an extensive platform, ESPN’s credibility has diminished somewhhat in my eyes. Lavar isn’t a story, he isn’t important, and no one really cares what he thinks. However, his face has been plastered on my TV screen for the past few months simply because he brings in viewers and makes money. That isn’t quality sports coverage. Like Lavar, ESPN comes off as little more than a gimmick when they pass on airing more important stories in favor of a blowhard like Lavar. If big networks really want to shut him up they should stop sticking a microphone in front of his face.
It might sound outdated and cliche but aren’t sports supposed to be fun? My favorite thing about basketball is that it’s the ultimate equalizer. You can talk all you want before the game, but how you play on the court does the majority of the talking for you. It doesn’t matter if you’re wearing Lavar’s newly founded Big Baller Brand (BBB) sneaker (retailing for the affordable price of $495) or Stephen Marbury’s $20 “Starbury” basketball shoe, hard work always seems to win out in the end. I feel pity for all of the Lonzo Ball’s of the world who are burdened with impossible standards set by overbearing parents. Whether it’s through music or education or sports, perfection is unattainable and parents have no business demanding it of their children. I feel blessed that my own parents only demanded that I do my best and never give up on the team, never asking for wins or perfection and always letting my performance do the talking. Hopefully Lavar learns the same lesson and starts letting his son’s god-given ability speak for itself.