The Lavar Ball Saga Continues

Photo Courtesy: Wikimedia User Batistaya

Author: Jamie Weintraub

What has gotten into Lavar Ball? This is a question I never thought I would find myself asking. Following the events of the morning of December 5, I am certain that Lavar Ball has finally lost his mind.  

Anyone who has a connection to the world of basketball knows who Lavar Ball is. Over the past year, Lavar Ball, father of basketball stars Lonzo, Liangelo and Lamelo and owner of “Big Baller Brand” of athletic sportswear, has been at the forefront of the media. Starting last winter, Lonzo became a household name as he unabashedly promoted and hyped his three sons and brand.  He has frequently made the news with outrageous statements, such as telling the USA Today that, “back in my heyday, I would kill Michael Jordan one-on-one.”  The Lavar Ball saga has been on-going for roughly a year and it started to appear that Lavar was the smartest guy in the room, making his family name and brand a staple to sports fans everywhere. 

While often criticized, Lavar Ball has done well for his sons.  After one year at UCLA, Lonzo was the second overall pick by the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA draft.  As a rookie, Lonzo is now at the helm of the upstart Lakers.  His middle son, Liangelo, was a freshman on UCLA’s basketball team hoping to follow in Lonzo’s footsteps.  Youngest son, Lamelo, was playing hoops for Chino Hills High School, in California.  However, it appears that Lavar’s arrogance has finally led his family down a wrong turn. Following Liangelo Ball’s arrest for shoplifting during UCLA’s trip to China and eventual release back to the United States, Liangelo was suspended by the university and has not seen the court in a UCLA uniform. Displeased with the disciplinary action taken by the university, Lavar removed Liangelo from UCLA and is preparing him for the 2019 NBA Draft. This comes after Lavar decided, earlier this fall, to remove Lamelo from Chino Hills High School, in attempt to homeschool him and according to Lavar, “make him the best basketball player ever,” via the LA Times. While Lavar figured to be a fixture in the stands of Pauley Pavilion at the UCLA campus for years to come, he now appears to have seen his final days with a son sporting a Bruins uniform. 

It now seems apparent that Lavar has made all the wrong choices for sons, Liangelo and Lamelo. Liangelo, will be trained by Lavar at their home in Chino Hills, in preparation for the NBA draft in June. However, this is a puzzling move as Liangelo is nowhere close to being an NBA talent. By removing Liangelo from a prominent college basketball program, Lavar has deprived Liangelo of valuable experience and national television exposure and his son’s chances of playing professional basketball, not to mention a quality education.  

Maybe I am wrong and Lavar will prepare Liangelo for the NBA draft better than the UCLA coaching staff ever could, but I don’t buy that narrative. Liangelo will not receive the high quality of coaching and competition that he would have if he stayed at UCLA.  As a result, I would be shocked if he ever dons an NBA uniform.  Lamelo, on the other hand, is supposed to have a much higher ceiling as a basketball player than older brother, Liangelo.  Currently ranked as the seventh-best high school basketball recruit in his class by ESPN.com, Lamelo is believed to have the skills and intangibles necessary to become an NBA talent.  

While there is great promise surrounding Lamelo ball, Lavar’s actions have greatly diminished his sons’ opportunities. By Lamelo leaving Chino Hills High School and having a signature sneaker released under the Big Baller Brand, Lamelo’s NCAA eligibility has become extremely questionable. According to NCAA rules, an athlete who receives “pay in any form” for his exploits will be deemed ineligible to play collegiate sports. So, similar to Liangelo, Lamelo will not experience quality competition without high school or collegiate exposure. Lavar Ball believes otherwise, as he told ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, “I can get him the best game every day, I just gotta go down to the hood and say, Who wanna ball with my son?”  

While Lavar’s arrogance appears unfazed by the recent changes to his two sons’ path to the pros, only time will tell if the success that has graced the Ball family will extend to Liangelo and Lamelo.