LaVar Ball: The Businessman

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Spencer Wu
Staff Writer

As a 19-year-old kid, I have only experienced one side of the parent-child relationship, meaning I have no clue as to what parenting is like but am brimming with experience as to what being parented is like. With that said, coming from the perspective of a son, I find fault with LaVar Ball (University of California, Los Angeles basketball star Lonzo Ball’s father) and his outlandish comments regarding himself and his three sons from Chino Hills High School.

LaVar has received national attention by making ridiculous comments, including claiming he could beat Michael Jordan one-on-one in his prime and criticizing NBA great Charles Barkley by suggesting he is overweight and that instead of commentating, he should “stick to donuts.” Through claims like these, among other headline grabbing and attention garnering statements, LaVar has been painted as a ridiculous, ludicrous, and even outright dumb individual in the eyes of the media.

But to me, he is a smart man, strictly in a business sense. He openly stated that he and his three sons want to build a billion dollar empire with his Big Baller Brand. With all the media attention he and his family are getting (his two younger children are still only in high school) he has cultivated brand recognition and awareness with not only basketball aficionados, but also people who know very little about the sport.

LaVar’s highly rated, nationally televised interviews with NBA personalities and ESPN correspondents all feature him barking about his children while wearing a BBB affiliated sweatshirt or jacket. It seems like it is all a big business and marketing tactic and I appreciate him playing the game. The public is sucking it up, media outlets are infatuated with him, and even the likes of Stephen A. Smith and Colin Cowherd seem entertained by his foolish comments.  

However, if he continues to be reckless with that he says, he might see serious repercussions dealt to his children. Veterans in the league generally are not too fond of young guns who think they are entitled to super stardom or fame, so his sons might take the hit for his words. People say he is writing checks that his sons have to cash in and that he is adding unnecessary pressure onto his kids and the programs and organizations they represent. Some even went as far as saying that Lonzo’s draft stock is hurt by every word coming out of his father’s mouth, since teams don’t want to be affiliated with LaVar and his antics.

For example, he openly declared (with strong conviction) that UCLA is in a lock to win the National Championship early on in the season in a game against Cal State Fullerton. Also, he unapologetically stated that his oldest son is currently better than NBA champion and defending back-to-back unanimous MVP Stephen Curry. Though I’m not a big fan of the Dubs, I do realize that someone as green as Lonzo hasn’t played a minute in the NBA in his life. This type of unchecked and unwavering “confidence” can only be a detriment to his son and the rest of the Bruins. When this unabashed faith turns into a threat to the success of his children in the future, a gaping problem arises. It is placing an enormous target on his kids’ backs when they enter the league or the NCAA.

Proponents of his antics say he is only guiding his children the right way and setting high, yet reachable goals for his kids. And granted, there are some notable success stories that came out of young athletes with like-minded parents, like Tiger Woods and the Williams sisters. However, a common trend amongst these successful athletes is that they play individual sports. In both Lonzo’s and, predictably, his younger brothers’ LiAngelo and LaMelo’s case, they participate in a team sport; no matter how dominant or great a player is, he or she still needs to depend on teammates.

When LaVar started chirping, he seemed constructive and in favor of his sons succeeding. He initially came out saying that someone has to be better than Michael Jordan (generally regarded as the GOAT), so why not his children? But when that evolved (rather devolved) into a more selfish and self serving motive to broadcast his brand, he lost sight of what parenting is. As video surfaced of his Rec League games, LaVar is clearly living vicariously through the fame of his children and staying in the spotlight he never had.

Spencer Wu is a second year Actuarial Science major. He attended Walnut High School and has been a journalist since his freshman year of High School. In his free time, Spencer likes to play fantasy basketball as well as in real life on the court. He enjoys puns, cooking, and nice shoes.

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