In case you didn’t know, Lonzo Ball is the Freshman Guard from UCLA who has declared for June’s NBA Draft and is projected to be a top 2-3 pick. I have to make such a seemingly obviously statement because unfortunately, it is his father, Lavar Ball who has been grabbing more of the headlines over the past few months. Lonzo Ball’s dream of playing in the NBA is about to become a reality in about a month. But, it has been his pompous, self-promoting father who has claimed the spotlight leading up to the draft.
It started with Lavar Ball’s foolish claims that his son was already better than Steph Curry. If Ball’s credibility wasn’t already in doubt, his foolishness reached a new level when he said that he would have “killed Michael Jordan one-on-one”.
In case you didn’t know, Lavar Ball’s basketball career ended after averaging 2.2 points per game while playing at Washington State. To say Ball was not the same caliber player of Jordan is the understatement of the year. Despite those humbling facts, Lavar has not backed down from his family promotions. After his demands for a shoe deal were rejected by Nike, Under Armour and Adidas, he released a proof of Lonzo Ball’s signature “Big Baller Brand” shoes were released with a reported price of $495.
Most people would agree that $495 is a ridiculous amount of money to spend on basketball shoes. But for a pair of shoes linked to a 19-year old yet to be drafted in the NBA, it is pure insanity. The most troubling aspect of this entire story and hype surrounding Lonzo Ball is that virtually all of it is “thanks” to his dad. And Lavar Ball is not doing his son any favors.
Lavar Ball has earned a very negative reputation across the sports landscape, and deservedly so. But as crazy as he may seem, there is truly not anything unique about Lavar Ball. Lavar Ball represents the worst behavior of a sports parent.
Anyone who grew up playing youth and/or high school sports came in contact with at least one crazy, helicopter parent who was way too invested in their child’s athletic endeavors. In most cases, these parents cared more about their kid’s performance than the actual kid. Most people describe this behavior as an attempt to live through their children’s athletic accomplishments following an athletic career that fell short of their own personal expectations.
With as eccentric as Ball’s behavior is, he is not as unique and original as the media makes him out to be. In fact, there are hundreds to thousands of “Lavar Ball’s” across the country. We are just not hearing about them. We’re not hearing about them because their kids are currently playing Little League, Pop Warner Football or are participating in youth swimming and gymnastics. These are the parents of children as young as eight years old, Their kids are not competing at a level that warrants national attention, like Lonzo Ball, who’s UCLA Bruins fell to the Kentucky Wildcats in the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament in a nationally televised game on CBS.
These parents would like nothing more than for their child to reach the level of Lonzo Ball. Usually, they want it more than their own kid does. For most kids, their purpose in youth sports participation is fun and exercise. Sure, their heads will go into the clouds at some point as they dream about the possibility of being drafted or participating in an Olympic Games. But for 99.9% of them, it is not realistic.
As these kids grow up, these kids start dropping these sports for a variety of reasons. It may be to focus on other activities, free up time for an after school job or simply a loss of interest. The worst reason I have witnessed is when the parent ruins the experience for the child. This is when their parent is acting too much like Lavar Ball, and it is no longer fun for the kid. It happens every day.
They make the sport too much about them, start trouble with the coach(es), likely create a scene (or scenes), embarrass their child and ultimately hurt their child more than helping. You might be thinking, “Well if they were as good as Lonzo Ball, then they definitely won’t quit”.
Not true. The talent and potential, as elite as it may be is rarely enough to mask the torment felt by young athletes caused by their parents’ overbearing behavior. Up until now, Lonzo Ball has been able to put up with it. But Lonzo Ball is in the minority. There are plenty of young basketball players who likely had a similar ability that have cracked or are likely to crack before too long.
This is why Lavar Ball should be a cautionary tale. There are too many “Lavar Ball’s”. And “Lavar Ball’s”, as much as they claim to be doing whatever it is they do for the benefit of their child, are only being a detriment. They justify their behavior with the defense of supporting their child, or by that, they are “putting them first”. Sadly, these parents are blinded by how much worse they are making the experience for their children.
If you watch Lavar Ball on television or hear him on a radio and feel disgusted, good. You should be disgusted. More importantly, he should serve as a warning and provide a lesson to parents of young athletes. Lavar Ball’s greatest contribution to sports may ultimately be educating sports parents on what NOT to do. Let’s hope the lesson spreads, and this behavior starts to subside in this next generation.