LaVar Ball is the basketball equivalent of a pageant mom.
Oh, the father of Lonzo, creator of the Big Baller Brand and current object of media fascination likes to think of himself as a visionary. There has never been anyone like his three sons, he bellows every chance he gets, and he and he alone will ensure that their greatness is properly appreciated.
In reality, however, LaVar Ball is no different than those mothers who slather makeup on their young daughters, spray their hair until it’s a fire hazard and parade them around like a trained poodle. Their kids are merely the cover for their desperate quests for validation, a chance to achieve vicariously what they never could on their own.
This is not to say parents can’t be proud of their children, even irrationally so. But when it becomes more about the parent than the kid, that’s where the line is crossed.
“The Kardashians — we didn’t say (Kris Jenner) was bad and she made them a lot of money, right?” Magic Johnson, whose Los Angeles Lakers might end up with Lonzo – and LaVar – Ball said during an interview Wednesday with ESPN Radio Los Angeles.
“She’s bragged on her daughters. I think it’s the same here,” Johnson added. “He’s just saying, `Hey, my son is great,’ and there’s nothing bad with that.”
But LaVar Ball isn’t making his son money. He’s costing him it.
Lonzo Ball is projected as one of the top picks in next month’s NBA draft, lofty status that would normally come with a shoe contract and other high-profile endorsements. But Nike, Under Armour and Adidas have all taken a pass, turned off by LaVar Ball’s bluster and high asking price.
So the Balls are marketing their own shoe, the ZO2, at an obscene cost of $495 a pair. Needless to say, sales have not exactly been brisk.
Now LaVar Ball is selling “Stay in yo lane” T-shirts and tank tops, trying to capitalize on that FS1 interview last week in which he threatened co-host Kristine Leahy. Given that studies have shown women are responsible for 70% to 85% of consumer purchasing, this was not the wisest marketing move.
It didn’t go unnoticed by Leahy, either, who posted a link to Girls Inc. on her Twitter feed Thursday and asked that, “In lieu of shirts, join me in donating $50/60 or whatever you can to inspire all girls to be strong, smart and bold.” Her timeline quickly filled with people saying they had donated.
By running his mouth as he has, LaVar Ball has also put a target on his son’s back.
Veteran players are always going to want to take a high-profile rookie down a peg or two, and some current and former NBA players have already said it’s going to be even worse for Lonzo Ball because of his father.
“(LaVar) is giving him this pressure before he’s even done anything,” Sam Perkins, who won a national championship with Michael Jordan at North Carolina before playing 18 seasons in the NBA told USA TODAY Sports last week.
“If you look at his last (college) game against Kentucky, guys took it to him,” Perkins said, referring to the 39 points De’Aaron Fox scored. “Just imagine when he gets to the league. Guys aren’t just gonna go at him, they’re gonna go at him.”
Lonzo Ball has said repeatedly that his father’s yapping doesn’t bother him. There’s also no question that the family is close-knit.
But just like those toddlers in tiaras, Lonzo Ball will eventually grow up and decide he wants to make decisions for himself. And LaVar Ball will learn the cruel truth that so many other pageant moms have: Just because you have a talented, smart or beautiful child, it doesn’t mean you’re special, too.
By Nancy Armour
This article was republished with permission from the original author and 2015 Ronald Reagan Media Award recipient, Nancy Armour, and the original publisher, USA Today. Follow columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.