Don’t look now, but LaVar Ball’s plan is working.
Over the last year, the loud mouth and boisterous father of Chino Hills’ three Ball boys — Lonzo, LiAngelo and LaMelo — has consistently found himself in the news cycle staking one outrageous claim after another about the impending success of his sons’ future basketball careers.
LaVar’s oldest son, Lonzo, was the star player at UCLA last season. His breathtaking passing ability and on-court swagger catapulted his draft stock all the way to a second overall selection by his hometown Los Angeles Lakers in last June’s draft. But as Lonzo’s star continued to rise, LaVar was always nearby and ready to hop in front of a camera to make another bold claim.
When UCLA lost to Kentucky in the Sweet 16 of this past NCAA tournament, LaVar blamed the loss on the Bruins’ “three white guys” (Bryce Alford, T.J. Leaf and Thomas Welsh) “because the foot speed is too slow.”
And when Lonzo declared for the NBA Draft, LaVar demanded that any potential shoe company looking to sign his boy would need to co-brand with the Ball’s already pre existing company “Big Baller Brand.” After shoe companies opted to pass on LaVar’s offer, he gave Lonzo his own shoe, the ZO2 — the first of its kind under the Big Baller Brand.
As LaVar’s middle son, LiAngelo, gets set to play his freshman season at UCLA next year, there’s little doubt that his father will not quiet down. The youngest of the Ball brothers, LaMelo, is getting ready to hit his junior year of high school and is in full AAU mode right now as summer basketball is at a premium.
On Wednesday night in Las Vegas at the Adidas Uprising Summer Championships, LaVar’s Big Ballers team featuring LaMelo squared off in a highly anticipated event against SC Supreme, captained by 2018 No. 2 overall recruit Zion Williamson. On a Facebook Livestream, ran by BallisLife, 800,000 people logged on to view throughout the game. 800,000 people. For a high school basketball game. In July.
Like it or not, people are always willing to tune in just to see what LaVar might do next.
NBA players Damian Lillard, Andrew Wiggins, Thon Maker, Jamal Murray, and of course, Lonzo, were on hand for the event. Because that’s what LaVar does. He turns basketball games into events. He turns any television appearance into an event. Anytime someone wants to put a rolling camera in front of LaVar’s face, it usually becomes an event.
When asked prior to the game Wednesday night if he and LaMelo could take on LeBron James and his son, the never-shy father made another big time claim.
LaVar Ball says he and LaMelo would take LeBron AND Jordan 😵 pic.twitter.com/2OrPvODzZR
— Overtime (@overtime) July 27, 2017
This is the same man who said that Michael Jordan wouldn’t be able to guard him in a one-on-one matchup.
For all of the outlandish comments, insane remarks and continued hubris ad nauseum, LaVar seems to be one of the most calculated sports parents and brand builders the game of basketball has ever seen.
In typical LaVar fashion, the man even made an appearance on WWE Monday Night RAW where he proceeded to rip his shirt off on live television. All for the love of the brand.
Wednesday night in Las Vegas wasn’t about two teenagers and their teams squaring off to play a game of basketball. Plenty of other games this summer featured much more on-court talent than the highlight reel searching LaMelo vs. Zion game. But that’s not what people were watching for. Eyes are drawn to LaVar because he consistently will do whatever he deems necessary to grow Big Baller Brand.
Considering this the highest watched high school basketball game since James was an amateur, who can argue with the results?
However, with all of the calamity that LaVar looks to createfor the sake of growing his brand, detractors of his method have arisen.
Back in March, Fox Sports 1’s Kristine Leahy made comments about LaVar’s parenting skills, questioning if the fathering of his sons, Lonzo in particular, was rooted in fear.
“All three sons, they’re being forced to do it,” Leahy said on FS1. “They’re being told, ‘You will start basketball at age six,’ just like Lonzo told us. And whenever you asked him a question, I think [Lonzo] said, what, five words? He looks terrified whenever he’s talking. He looks genuinely afraid.”
As a result, when LaVar appeared on The Herd with Colin Cowherd back in May, he refused to even look Leahy in the eye, and advised her to “stay in your lane.” This caused a media frenzy, and a collective questioning of LaVar’s character and treatment towards women.
Bottom line though, all it did was generate more conversation about the Ball family, with the culmination of interest coming Wednesday night where everyone even remotely interested in hoops tuned in a little after midnight eastern to see a few kids play unorganized basketball mainly because of the loud guy on the sidelines.
Two days later, at the same tournament, LaVar delivered another patented episode that continues to control the sensationalized nature of the news cycle. In a matchup against Team BBC, LaVar was issued a technical foul by a female referee. But, in a surprising turn of events, it was the referee who was removed from the game. Not the loud mouth dad. LaVar threatened to remove his team from the game if the referee switch wasn’t made. Even after a successful swap, LaVar still managed to receive a second technical, garnering an ejection. As a result, the coach pulled his players off the court before the end of the game.
Addressing the media after the fact, LaVar issue a familiar response to a detractor.
“She needs to stay in her lane because she ain’t ready for this,” LaVar told ESPN. “[Ref] the little kids first and then come up. Because she ain’t did enough. She ain’t got enough on her resume, I could tell.”
The moral of the story when it comes to LaVar’s public antics is that he’s figured out the system. He knows it. He’s just waiting for everyone else to figure out that they’re wrapped around his finger.
All it’s going to take for LaVar to continue to rise Big Baller Brand is the on-court success of his boys. And after Lonzo dominated the Las Vegas Summer League with multiple triple-doubles, the next step in his plan doesn’t seem too unrealistic of a goal.
When LaVar pulls his next crazy stunt, when he says the next outlandish comment, or when he pulls his AAU team off the court again, just remember, he knows exactly what he’s doing. And from all accounts, it’s working.
“Oh we got LaVar controlled,” LaVar said to media following Friday’s incident. “No. I got ya’ll controlled. Cause all I’m here is to watch my boys play. And people in the stands want to watch them play.”
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