I Was Wrong About LaVar Ball
He’s an active parent, not a toxic one.
Sometime this year, I posted on Facebook a remark about LaVar Ball. I made the comment that “LaVar Ball, is the sports dad none of us ever wanted.” I saw his interactions with many people in the media like we all did. It all began in 2016 when LaVar Ball was quoted saying his son Lonzo was “Magic Johnson with a jump shot”. Or was it the time he said he could beat Michael Jordan one on one? Or the time that he said Lonzo Ball was better than 2 time NBA MVP Steph Curry before Lonzo was even drafted? Maybe it was his back and forth with Kristine Leahy and his famous “stay in yo lane” remark.
Now I will say this, a lot of times LaVar Ball was definitely trolling and certainly had some hot takes. But in reality, he’s a genius. This got his name and brand viral. Everyone wanted to meet with him. He wasn’t afraid of the media, he wasn’t afraid of UCLA Athletics staff, he wasn’t afraid of NCAA CEO Mark Emmert, he wasn’t even afraid of Magic Johnson. LaVar Ball even went at President Trump this year — on interviews and social media. Simply put, he didn’t care who got in his way. LaVar Ball isn’t afraid of anyone.
Initially, I was frustrated by his antics, I will admit. Which is probably why I posted that hasty status on Facebook (forgive me, I am a millennial after all). But I’ve had a change of heart. LaVar Ball is an example of an active parent. If you haven’t had a strict parent or parents growing up, then you really can’t understand the big picture. When athletes get into trouble at a young age (i.e. Johnny Manziel or Josh Gordon), we often criticize them heavily. But what we seem to forget is, most of these guys are adolescents. We’ve put them in the media on sites like Rivals or Scout.com and that’s professionalized them as early as their teens.
Rivals.com has a Super 150 for basketball all the way up to the class of 2020. Jalen Green, Isaiah Todd, and RJ Hampton round out the top of that list. What people fail to remember is that Lonzo Ball was on these lists once. In fact. he was ranked as the no.4 player on Rivals.com for the class of 2016, behind Josh Jackson, Harry Giles, and Jayson Tatum. All of these guys are NBA pros now. We’ve been treating children like adults as early as 16 years old.
SO, when you have a parent like LaVar Ball, an active, strict parent you will see a strong personality. LaVar Ball is what we need more of in the Black community. He lined up college scholarships for his sons at UCLA. He played the game. When it came time for Lonzo to go pro, he didn’t sign with Nike or Adidas. They created their own brand. Dr. William C. Rhoden, an African American studies scholar wrote a book entitled “$40 Million Dollar Slaves”. In this book, he writes about something called the “conveyor belt”. The conveyor belt is a metaphor for pipe-lining college athletes into major Division I universities to play sports from AAU and other sorts of amateur leagues.
Additionally, in critical race studies, there is an argument about the reactionary and the revolutionary. The reactionary maintains the status quo (uses the current system), and the revolutionary create their own institution to solve the problem. The most notable revolutionary in sports and critical race theory is probably Negro National League founder Rube Foster. When Blacks didn’t have a space to play baseball he created the NNL. That’s a revolutionary approach. The Fab 5 at Michigan was reactionary, they came together at a PWI (Primarily White Institution). Had they played at Howard University, it would be revolutionary. Diddy wanting to buy the Panthers is semi-revolutionary, he is using the system in place, but is owning a team himself. What LaVar Ball is doing is revolutionary. he is a modern Rube Foster.
When he saw college served its purpose for Lonzo Ball, they as a family declared Lonzo for the NBA draft. When LiAngelo got in arrested in China for theft, LaVar pulled his child out of UCLA. This is what an active parent does. “So you want to go to college and be a criminal? Nope, it's time to come home.” The man is no-nonsense. LaVar is a revolutionary because he created his own brand for his family when Nike and Adidas wouldn’t put up the money he asked for (a lofty $3 Billion FYI). Now, he’s noticed a problem that everyone has known about for years. There needs to be more options for NBA prospects besides the NCAA, NBA G League, and the Euro League. There should be more options domestically for players to get paid. So what does LaVar Ball do? He creates the Junior Basketball Association. Which by the way, features Lonzo Ball as its logo, in a Jerry West-esque fashion. It already has 8 teams and begins summer 2018. Players will make $3,000-$10,000 a month.
I was wrong about LaVar Ball, he’s the sports dad we all wish we had.
He isn’t the drunk dad who fights the other dad at the HS football game. He isn’t getting ejected from Lakers games because he’s unruly. Here is a Black father who is an active parent that loves his sons and wants them to have the best life possible. Would we not do the same for our own children? Don’t any of us remember the story Lonzo wrote in the Players’ Tribune to his father thanking him? We complain about the lack of Black fatherhood (a myth by the way), but when one shows up we are so quick to point the finger…
He’s doing what many people have talked about. Black-owned brands and Black-owned leagues. We were so quick to criticize, but the truth is LaVar is becoming unstoppable. That’s why his sons are playing PRO BASKETBALL in Lithuania instead of getting exploited for free while colleges get rich off them. That’s why Lonzo is playing in the NBA after one year of school. That’s why he made BBB and the JBA. That’s why LaVar isn’t afraid of anyone, even the President of arguably the most powerful country in the world.
This isn’t the year of the Trump, this is the year of LaVar Ball.
Originally published at The Millennial Gazette on December 30, 2017.