I don't have a problem with LaVar Ball. Neither should you nor all of those folks wringing their hands over a guy who isn't exactly Daddy Dearest or somebody worse, such as Marv Marinovich, the scariest father ever of a professional athlete in waiting.
If you haven't heard of LaVar Ball, you've HEARD him. You've also seen him, because he's everywhere. He's likely on television or radio right now promoting the basketball exploits of Lonzo, 19, LiAngelo, 18 and LaMelo, 15, his three sons on the verge of becoming the most famous trio since somebody first slapped bacon, lettuce and tomato on a sandwich.
Well, that's what LaVar is suggesting regarding his sons, and so be it. He waved away millions from Nike, Under Armour and Adidas, and then he boasted of generating billions after he formed "Big Baller Brand" to market all things Ball family, ranging from $495 sneakers to $220 sandals to whatever else is rattling inside his body.
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban used his equally blunt tongue to tell ESPN the truth about LaVar's big dreams by saying, "That's the American way. That's the American dream. If he gets there, more power to him."
I mean, Chad "Ochocinco" Johnson bought a pair of the sneakers, and here's the bottom line: If you don't wish to spend that much for Lonzo's low-cut black shoes with the triple B logo, then get those ZO2 signature slides or just use that money for your rent. But I understand. You're more bothered by LaVar's mouth, especially after you tossed your Air Jordans at the TV screen when he said Michael Jordan couldn't sell his $200 shoes for $495 since "He ain't no Lonzo Ball." You'll get over it, and you'll eventually shrug over LaVar saying Lonzo is better than Stephen Curry, LeBron James and Russell Westbrook. And don't tell me: You nearly choked on Kobe Bryant's new BodyArmor drink after LaVar responded to the Los Angeles Lakers star suggesting he wouldn't mind helping Lonzo by replying, "I don't need no advice from Kobe Bryant."
Now that's a bit much. No doubt, somebody will grab Lonzo and his ball-distributing prowess in a hurry in next month's NBA Draft after he spent his only collegiate season taking UCLA to the Sweet Sixteen in March, but we're talking about Kobe. He knows stuff. Plus, his former agent, Rob Pelinka, is the general manager of the Los Angeles Lakers, the same team that LaVar wants as Lonzo's destination sooner rather than later. "Oh, he's going to be a Laker," LaVar told ESPN. "I'm going to keep talking about it until it happens."
It's about to happen.
Courtesy of Tuesday night's NBA Draft lottery, the Lakers will pick second on June 22 behind the Boston Celtics. After commissioner Adam Silver does the expected by calling the name of player other than Lonzo as the Celtics' choice, LaVar will become a soothsayer when his son is taken by the team located an easy drive from the family home in Chino Hills, Calif.
To translate, LaVar has the right to continue as his son's biggest (and loudest) booster. He has used his skills as a professional trainer to mold his boys into exceptional basketball players since their births. He coached their AAU team. Even now, he and his sons have a regimented schedule that starts earlier than early for LiAngelo and LeMelo, both headed for UCLA after they finish high school, and slightly later than that for Lonzo. The Ball brothers only eat certain things, and they run like crazy with dad watching and timing, but LaVar hasn't gone Marv Marinovich on them.
Marv was so obsessed with converting his son, Todd, into an NFL star that he used Olympic techniques from the old Soviet Union as soon as Todd left his wife's womb. Literally. Then there was the food thing. For nutritional reasons, Marv did things such as force Todd to take his own nutritionally baked birthday cake to parties as a kid. Eventually, what Sports Illustrated called "a test-tube quarterback" became a first-round pick in 1991 out of Southern Cal. Todd played just a couple of NFL seasons before he spent decades as the drug-plagued drifter he is today. Many of his off-the-field horrors began in college, where he skipped classes, got into a nasty confrontation with his head coach on national television and began his love affair with marijuana.
You saw none of those issues with Lonzo at UCLA. Mostly, you saw a gifted athlete whose father cared so much about his son that LaVar evolved into the latest version of Earl Woods, Richard Williams, Archie Manning and Jack Elway. That's splendid company. OK, you can quibble over a little of this and a lot of that involving all three, but such is true of everybody.
Let's deal with the big picture here.
• Earl Woods was Tiger's first golf instructor, and he watched his two-year-old son swing his way into early fame on national television during the "Mike Douglas Show." Afterward, Earl stayed close to every aspect of Tiger's life along the way to the majority of his 14 major championships. If you saw one, you knew the other was in the vicinity. (Earl was his son's most loyal confidant, just like somebody else I've been talking about).
• This still doesn't seem possible: With the vicious streets of Compton, Calif., as the backdrop, Richard Williams spoke boldly while coaching and managing his daughters, Venus and Serena, toward becoming two of the greatest women tennis players ever. Still, he had more than a few detractors who claimed he was holding his daughters back by refusing to back away from speaking his mind. (Richard was LaVar before LaVar).
• In case you didn't know, College Football Hall of Famer Archie Manning is the father of Peyton, a future Pro Football Hall of Famer, and of Eli, who has two Super Bowl rings with the New York Giants. When Archie was traded from the New Orleans Saints to the Houston Oilers, he remained such a family man that he often caught a flight after practice so he could have dinner with Peyton, Eli and the rest of his family back home in New Orleans before flying back to Houston. (In addition to personally potty training his sons and watching every one of their games, LaVar makes breakfast for them.)
• Jack Elway was miffed when the Baltimore Colts prepared to make his son, John, the first pick of the 1983 NFL draft. The younger Elway excelled at Stanford in football and baseball. As a result, Jack conspired with John to have the son say he would sign with the New York Yankees if he wasn't traded by the Colts to an NFL team he liked. (Sound familiar? The Colts dealt Elway on draft day to the Denver Broncos for nothing worth mentioning, and I told you where Lonzo will likely dribble in the NBA to make LaVar clairvoyant).
So keep talking big and bad, Daddy Ball.
You deserve it, especially now.