If you’re a basketball fan, over the last year you’ve probably heard a lot about the Ball Brothers.
Lonzo Ball is a point guard at UCLA who’s currently predicted as a Top 5 pick in this year’s NBA draft. At 19 years old and he’s already won the Naismith Prep Player of the Year, Morgan Wootten National Player of the Year, USA Today Boys Basketball Player of the Year, and Mr. Basketball USA.
His younger brothers, LaMelo and LiAngelo, are also getting attention from scouts. At age 15, LaMelo has already committed to play at UCLA and made headlines after scoring 92 points in a single game. All three kids come from Chino Hills, CA, and they all have one problem in common: their father is overshadowing their careers.
LaVar Ball and his wife, Tina, were both collegiate athletes who’ve encouraged their children to become the elite prospects they are today. Unfortunately, as the boys finally begin to see their hard work paying off, it’s their father who’s making headlines.
LaVar Ball’s outspoken persona has quickly turned him into the NCAA’s favorite sideshow attractions. Whether he’s claiming he could beat Michael Jordan at 1-on-1, demanding a billion dollar shoe deal for his kids, or betting against LeBron James’ children, not a week goes by without a new LaVar Ball headline. Yahoo says he’s “part boxing promoter, part carnival barker, part stage dad and part stand-up comic” and USA Today called him “biggest mouth in college basketball”. But, even though the press loves it, his antics might be hurting his children’s future.
Most mock drafts have Lonzo Ball projecting as the #2 overall draft pick this year, but many fans have become weary of his parental baggage. Over on the RealGM forums, whole threads have been dedicated to the idea that Lonzo Ball’s father will be a problem for any team who signs his son. Here’s a small selection of the comments:
- “If his dad becomes Lonzo’s agent, I think that is really going to hurt his value. His dad is a nightmare… throwing his UCLA teammates under the bus IS NOT a good look.” –xxSnEaKyPxx
- “Having a target on your back is a byproduct of hype..in this case Lonzo is being hyped by his own father… John wall is already on record saying nba players are coming to ‘destroy’ Lonzo ball.” –JonJames
- “For every Serena Williams, there are 5 to 10 equally talented tennis players who have crashed and burned because of their dads.” –Spalato
LaVar has basically put his sons into a trap game. With this much hype, fans are expecting Lonzo to come into the league as one of the best players on the court. Even if he comes into the league playing as well as Steph Curry, all he will have done is met expectations – but anything less than that and he’s a disappointment. It’s a no win situation.
And it’s not just Lonzo; all of the Ball Brothers all have targets on their back now and their father is partially responsible. LaVar wants to media to treat his kids like superstars and the result isCharles Barkley going on ESPN criticizing LaMelo Ball’s game even though LaMelo is only 15 years-old. Between highlight mix tapes and his father’s hyperbole, LaMelo is being set-up to fail.
There’s no doubting that Lonzo Ball has game, and The LA Times has praised him for being “humble” and “focused”; but no NBA team is going to want a helicopter parent hanging around criticizing management to the press.
As Ashley Stahl of Forbes explained: “While it’s beautiful that today’s parents take an interest in their children’s lives, there’s a point at which they are doing more harm than good”. For Lonzo Ball, that point was probably when his father went on the radio and said that his son would only play for the Lakers. It’s really hard to imagine a statement like that won’t hurt his son’s draft stock with executives around the league.
At this point, the best thing LaVar Ball could do is back off. There are already enough obstacles to NBA success without adding variables; unfortunately, at this point, the damage may already be done.
[Photo by WikiPedia user “TonyTheTiger“]