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Point-Counterpoint: Is LaVar Ball helping or hurting his sons’ careers?

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LaVar Ball’s behaviour has compromised his sons’ basketball careers

Alec Regino

Lonzo Ball will probably be the Los Angeles Lakers’ first round pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, but his father, LaVar Ball, is the one dominating headlines. So far, LaVar has broken new ground in the game of sports parenting—single-handedly orchestrating the rise of sons Lonzo, LaMelo, and LiAngelo to basketball notoriety before any of them even go pro. The results of his dedication to creating a basketball family are unmistakable, with Lonzo projected to be an NBA superstar and his brothers set to follow the same path. However, LaVar’s unique rearing methods will only hinder his children’s careers as they progress.  

Want to hear a joke? Two men walk into a bar. One is the self-proclaimed Greatest of All Time in the sport of basketball, and the other is Michael Jordan. Here’s another one: What’s the difference between a two-time MVP and a 19year-old who has never played professional basketball? The two-time MVP only “made some shots at the right time.” LaVar Ball made both of these preposterous comparisons.

LaVar touts Lonzo as the “best player in the world.” Not LeBron James. Not Kawhi Leonard. Not Kevin Durant. Despite leading the UCLA Bruins to a disappointing early exit in the NCAA tournament in March and exactly zero NBA minutes to his name, Lonzo Ball has already risen to the top of the basketball world, according to his father. Naturally, such ridiculous claims will draw attention across the league.

Thanks to his father’s infamy across the basketball scene, many NBA players and their associates already want to see Lonzo collapse. James is reportedly not a fan. Durant openly mocked one of LaVar’s many zany comments. Shaquille O’Neal called out the Ball family for their absurdly expensive shoes.

All of this leads to the ever-growing target on Lonzo’s back—any player who faces him has a multitude of reasons to hate him. In the hyper-competitive NBA, Lonzo should gain respect from his superiors through his game and learn from what the actual best in the world have to offer. LaVar disagrees, however, and believes that his beloved child doesn’t need guidance or advice—even if it’s from Lakers legend Kobe Bryant.

This is the problem throughout the Ball saga: Lonzo’s voice—and more importantly, his play—is drowned out when LaVar opens his outrageous mouth. His constant presence in popular culture is an unnecessary distraction from Lonzo’s play. Shortly after the UCLA basketball season ended with a loss to the Kentucky Wildcats, LaVar threw Lonzo’s teammates under the bus.

Realistically, you can’t win no championship with three white guys,” LaVar pronounced. “Because the foot speed is too slow.”

LaVar’s actions display a questionable pattern of placing blame on anyone besides himself and his family. If this behaviour follows into his children’s professional careers, there will be trouble: Considering how NBA veterans feel about LaVar from afar, Lonzo will have to overcome myriad team chemistry issues that his father creates. Like any rookie, Lonzo will also need time to develop and adjust to professional basketball, but that transition will prove much more difficult surrounded by negativity over LaVar’s antics.

Furthermore, the Ball family is risking a lot of money to pursue their dream of owning a shoe brand. None of the top shoe companies in Nike, Adidas, and Under Armour have any interest in signing Lonzo to any sort of endorsement deal. LaVar wants co-branding for his sons, an unprecedented request that could turn endorsers off from the Ball brothers. Only time will tell if these risks are worth it, but with only 263 pairs of Lonzo’s ZO2 Prime sold in the shoe’s first 24 hours on the market, LaVar’s strategy seems to have fallen flat.

LaVar Ball, with all of his controversial statements, unsavoury behavior, and $500 shoes, is hurting his sons’ careers. His loud mouth has created unnecessary disdain for his children. His business acumen—or lack thereof—is making his family miss out on millions of dollars. Ultimately, his unwillingness to take a backseat and let his sons’ gameplay do the talking will lead to their collective downfall. He is just too self-absorbed to see it.

 

LaVar Ball’s actions have benefitted his sons’ basketball careers

Wasif Husain

LaVar Ball is, undeniably, an outlandish and controversial figure. He once bragged that, in his prime, he could have beaten Michael Jordan one-on-one. He has asserted that his son Lonzo—who will only workout for the Lakers—is better than Steph Curry. Still, despite his ridiculous statements, all three of his sons are actually fantastic basketball players and he has played an essential part in laying the groundwork for their basketball careers.

He has been criticized for exploiting his children by using their fame in order to promote a brand. These criticisms are overblown; he can’t be faulted for using their exposure to make money and secure a stable financial future for his children. He has used this era of social media to establish a brand that benefits the entire family. Lonzo recently released his own shoe. Regardless of its price, that is an impressive feat in an industry dominated by Nike, Under Armour, and Adidas. The only group truly exploiting Lonzo is the NCAA, which makes billions from performances by unpaid players like him.

LaVar has caught flak for comments about his son’s teammates and coaching, but those statements have merely provided headlines. Lonzo’s coach at UCLA asserted that LaVar never entered the locker room or attended practices. He is not creating bad blood with coaches or teammates. In fact, both of LaVar’s younger sons have verbal commitments to play at UCLA, clearly indicating that the program is interested in a continued relationship with the family. For all of his statements to the media, it is ridiculous to believe that he would ever try to follow his sons into the locker room and live their lives for them.

LaVar completely backs each of his sons’ efforts to be great. He is invested in their lives because they are a reflection and recognition of his sacrifices—he’s spent considerable amounts of time and money coaching his sons and sending them through premier basketball tournaments. Although LiAngelo and LaMelo are several years away from signing professional contracts, LaVar’s efforts have clearly paid off with Lonzo soon to be a top NBA draft pick. Perhaps LaVar can be knocked for his brash behaviour in the public eye, but it’s clear that his inexhaustible dedication has allowed his sons to recognize their potential.

Despite LaVar’s great investment in his children, he exerts no pressure on them. He has said that sports are just entertainment and that at the end of the day, the only burden on his kids comes from their own expectations. He has been remarkably supportive of each of the Ball brothers’ basketball careers and should be respected for standing behind his children’s dreams.

He may be brash, unconventional, and  exasperating, but LaVar hasn’t negatively affected any of his sons’ playing styles or abilities. Lonzo is regularly praised for selfless play and will likely be the second pick in the 2017 NBA Draft by the Los Angeles Lakers. LiAngelo is committed to UCLA, and LaMelo will join him once he’s done dominating the California high school league. All three of his children are poised to become successful pro basketball players and it’s due—in part—to LaVar’s parenting.  

Much can be said about LaVar Ball, but it would be wrong to say that he has hurt his sons’ careers. He may be outlandish—and a fantastic source of entertaining sound bites—but ultimately, he is just one dad in a long line of outspoken sporting fathers. His sons can clearly tolerate his antics enough to follow through with his master plan. They will certainly have an abundance of pundits and fans to tear apart their game, but LaVar will always continue to advocate for them. Like any adoring dad, he’s simply supporting and believing in his children unconditionally.

 

Editor’s pick: LaVar Ball’s actions have benefitted his sons’ basketball careers

LaVar’s antics have certainly enticed the ravenous basketball community, but he has not seriously harmed Lonzo, LaMelo, or LiAngelo’s career prospects. Ultimately, he played a big role in raising three talented athletes, and the positive impact of his presence far outweighs the negative attention he draws to his family.

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