Will Lavar Ball Bounce his Kids' Careers into the Tank?

December 9, 2017

Many sports clients of mine and a handful of media executives have asked me my opinion of LaVar Ball, the outspoken and boisterous father of three basketball phenoms, most notably UCLA Freshman Lonzo Ball, who recently declared for the NBA draft.

I’m the father of a current D-1 athlete, and I used to be D-1 athlete myself. I’m also a former major market TV sports reporter, a former network news TV correspondent, a former sports TV network exec, and currently I work as a TV coach for athletes.  I also train ballplayers on how to utilize the media to their advantage.  So I have a few reference points from which to tackle this question.

I have seen, heard, and read a lot of LaVar Ball over the last two weeks.  I live and work, however, in Southern California as well, so I’ve been privy to a steady diet of news content cooked up by this passionate sports father over the past two years.

Ball has been featured heavily recently, on ESPN’s “First Take” and other networks, calling out LeBron, touting his oldest son Lonzo’s elite skills and trying to entice a sneaker company into a mega endorsement deal for his boys.  Predictably, reporters are now digging deep into his sports past and amateur video has surfaced of Daddy Ball himself playing basketball.  Many LaVar Ball profile stories have been written, as scribes attempt to answer the question, “Who is this man?”

He walks with purpose, he talks with flair and he handles himself well on TV.  Ball quickly has become an influencer and seemingly everyone now wants a piece of him.  So what’s going on here and what’s the big picture?       

Sports Biz Perspective

First, my Sports Industry mind tells me:  He is good for the business of sports television because he is a one-man human sports content machine, and that’s positive for the industry.  Cameras will now follow him incessantly and reporters will throw questions at him because it’s hard for him to resist. 

 

"#LaVarBall is a personality now, not just the father of Lonzo, LiAngelo & LaMelo."   

LaVar Ball is a personality himself now, not just the father of Lonzo, LiAngelo and LaMelo.  Social media, digital media, newspapers, magazines, satellite radio, AM-FM radio, cable sports TV, and broadcast television will all thrive from his provocative remarks.  Some of his predictions will come true, he’ll continue to speak out, and I am sure a reality TV show is not far behind.  LaVar Ball has created a media buzz for himself and that’s good for the industry because content is king.  His look, his style, his voice, his arrogance, his following, and his swag are all factors and variables as to why his brand will continue producing solid sports news content.Bottom line here: He provides sports consumers something to talk about, so that’s a plus for the industry.

 

Parent Perspective

 

My Parenting mind tells me this: He is a liability for his children. Yes, his sons are gifted athletes, but they will NOT be able to cash all the checks that LaVar Ball writes with his mouth. Even NBA superstars have miserable games and off nights where the ball doesn’t find the hole. Ball’s three sons, however, are used to this and have thrived immensely in the culture their father has created for them throughout their young careers. When people tell them, “Dude, your dad is crazy!” They respond, “Tell me something I don’t know.”

 

"LaVar Ball is a liability for his children. "

 

It’s wonderful to have a confident father if you are an elite athlete. But I know, as a dad of a D-1 athlete and former D-1 athlete myself, that it’s already difficult enough to succeed in today’s high profile sports environment. A trash-talking father can make it even more difficult, or on the other hand, it might just motivate his child. Many elite athletes have described to me that pressure is a compliment, and perhaps the Ball boys channel it that way. Ball’s youngest son, a high school sophomore scored 92 points in a game during February. So I suspect at this stage, the Ball family has got this all figured out given some of the sick numbers the three ballplayers continue to put up on the court, and given that Lavar Ball has been LaVar Ball for quite some time.

 

My fatherly mind tells me this is tough love, because no one more than my son and I, truly are aware of his real athletic potential. When I bark at him, I’m just trying to inspire him to show the world how good I truly know he can be. Nothing the Ball boys do on the court ever surprises their father. If anything, he’s likely more surprised when they don’t come through in the clutch, when they fail during a game’s key moment.Having said that, and this is just me, I will always err on the modesty side of this approach. My son, now 19, admonished me when he was a high school freshman, and “our” approach today works well. I shut up, don’t bark from the stands, don’t gloat, and I let his coaches do what they do best, coach. Still I must admit, when he hits a homerun with the bases loaded, or a walk-off HR, or bangs a double off the left-field wall, it does NOT surprise me.

 

 

 

Money Perspective

 

My third Financial mind tells me: This is a win for the Ball family. A dad knows when he is raising a potential sports superstar. It’s apparent when recruiters court you and your child, that your boy has displayed athletic skills that will propel him to the lucrative market of pro sports. Go get it, LaVar Ball! You and your wife are the ones who sacrificed, who drove them to travel ball tournaments, paid out of your pocket for expenses to enable your kids to display their talents. You are the parents. There is no reason why you should not reap the benefits. Demand as much as you can, invest it well, and you have the right to live your life with as much dignity as your finances allow.

 

"Go get it, LaVar Ball! Demand as much as you can."

 

Realize also, that haters will express their jealousy towards you and accuse you of exploiting your sons. They’ll call you unrealistic, overbearing and too demanding. That’s just the world we live in. The haters are secretly envious of you too. If they could trade places with you they would.

 

Many sports clients of mine and a handful of media executives have asked me my opinion of LaVar Ball, the outspoken and boisterous father of three basketball phenoms, most notably UCLA Freshman Lonzo Ball, who recently declared for the NBA draft.

I’m the father of a current D-1 athlete, and I used to be D-1 athlete myself. I’m also a former major market TV sports reporter, a former network news TV correspondent, a former sports TV network exec, and currently I work as a TV coach for athletes.  I also train ballplayers on how to utilize the media to their advantage.  So I have a few reference points from which to tackle this question.

I have seen, heard, and read a lot of LaVar Ball over the last two weeks.  I live and work, however, in Southern California as well, so I’ve been privy to a steady diet of news content cooked up by this passionate sports father over the past two years.

Ball has been featured heavily recently, on ESPN’s “First Take” and other networks, calling out LeBron, touting his oldest son Lonzo’s elite skills and trying to entice a sneaker company into a mega endorsement deal for his boys.  Predictably, reporters are now digging deep into his sports past and amateur video has surfaced of Daddy Ball himself playing basketball.  Many LaVar Ball profile stories have been written, as scribes attempt to answer the question, “Who is this man?”

He walks with purpose, he talks with flair and he handles himself well on TV.  Ball quickly has become an influencer and seemingly everyone now wants a piece of him.  So what’s going on here and what’s the big picture?       

Sports Biz Perspective

First, my Sports Industry mind tells me:  He is good for the business of sports television because he is a one-man human sports content machine, and that’s positive for the industry.  Cameras will now follow him incessantly and reporters will throw questions at him because it’s hard for him to resist. 

"#LaVarBall is a personality now, not just the father of Lonzo, LiAngelo & LaMelo."   

LaVar Ball is a personality himself now, not just the father of Lonzo, LiAngelo and LaMelo.  Social media, digital media, newspapers, magazines, satellite radio, AM-FM radio, cable sports TV, and broadcast television will all thrive from his provocative remarks.  Some of his predictions will come true, he’ll continue to speak out, and I am sure a reality TV show is not far behind.  LaVar Ball has created a media buzz for himself and that’s good for the industry because content is king.  His look, his style, his voice, his arrogance, his following, and his swag are all factors and variables as to why his brand will continue producing solid sports news content. 

Bottom line here:  He provides sports consumers something to talk about, so that’s a plus for the industry.

Parent Perspective

My Parenting mind tells me this:  He is a liability for his children.  Yes, his sons are gifted athletes, but they will NOT be able to cash all the checks that LaVar Ball writes with his mouth.  Even NBA superstars have miserable games and off nights where the ball doesn’t find the hole.  Ball’s three sons, however, are used to this and have thrived immensely in the culture their father has created for them throughout their young careers.  When people tell them, “Dude, your dad is crazy!”   They respond, “Tell me something I don’t know.”  

"LaVar Ball is a liability for his children. "   

It’s wonderful to have a confident father if you are an elite athlete.  But I know, as a dad of a D-1 athlete and former D-1 athlete myself, that it’s already difficult enough to succeed in today’s high profile sports environment.  A trash-talking father can make it even more difficult, or on the other hand, it might just motivate his child.  Many elite athletes have described to me that pressure is a compliment, and perhaps the Ball boys channel it that way.  Ball’s youngest son, a high school sophomore scored 92 points in a game during February. So I suspect at this stage, the Ball family has got this all figured out given some of the sick numbers the three ballplayers continue to put up on the court, and given that Lavar Ball has been LaVar Ball for quite some time.

Image Source: Andy Lions / Staff

My fatherly mind tells me this is tough love, because no one more than my son and I, truly are aware of his real athletic potential.  When I bark at him, I’m just trying to inspire him to show the world how good I truly know he can be.  Nothing the Ball boys do on the court ever surprises their father.  If anything, he’s likely more surprised when they don’t come through in the clutch, when they fail during a game’s key moment.

Having said that, and this is just me, I will always err on the modesty side of this approach.  My son, now 19, admonished me when he was a high school freshman, and “our” approach today works well.  I shut up, don’t bark from the stands, don’t gloat, and I let his coaches do what they do best, coach.  Still I must admit, when he hits a homerun with the bases loaded, or a walk-off HR, or bangs a double off the left-field wall, it does NOT surprise me. 

Money Perspective

My third Financial mind tells me:  This is a win for the Ball family.  A dad knows when he is raising a potential sports superstar.  It’s apparent when recruiters court you and your child, that your boy has displayed athletic skills that will propel him to the lucrative market of pro sports.  Go get it, LaVar Ball!  You and your wife are the ones who sacrificed, who drove them to travel ball tournaments, paid out of your pocket for expenses to enable your kids to display their talents.  You are the parents.  There is no reason why you should not reap the benefits.  Demand as much as you can, invest it well, and you have the right to live your life with as much dignity as your finances allow. 

"Go get it, LaVar Ball! Demand as much as you can."   

Realize also, that haters will express their jealousy towards you and accuse you of exploiting your sons.  They’ll call you unrealistic, overbearing and too demanding.  That’s just the world we live in.  The haters are secretly envious of you too.  If they could trade places with you they would.

 

Media Perspective

 

My fourth Media Coach mind tells me:  Mr. Ball should surround himself with smart people who can advise him on how to navigate the world that awaits him.  Modesty, biting your tongue, dignity with failure, humility with success, losing with grace, and utilizing the media to your long-term advantage are all lessons that need to be learned. 

 

One of the unfortunate circumstances of the media world building someone or something up is dealing with the negativity when that someone or something gets torn down.  With two sons still yet to enter college and one about to make it to the NBA, we’ll be hearing a lot of Lavar Ball for a long time yet to come.  This is just the beginning.

 

 

 

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