Full disclosure: I am NOT a basketball fan. At least, not anymore. I grew up with Magic, Larry, Michael and the hated Bad Boys dominating the NBA, but I quit paying much attention to the NBA after that. I'm even less of a college basketball fan. March Madness is fun, but, outside of that, I pay no attention to college basketball at all. When March Madness started this past year, I admitted to some guys that I work with that the only college player I could name was Duke's Grayson Allen. I only knew who he was because he got in trouble.
So, I'd never heard of Lonzo Ball...much less LaVar Ball. But that was then and this is now. I think I would be hard pressed to find many sports fans who don't know who LaVar Ball is now. I also think almost everyone watches and listens to this guy and thinks he's a nut job.
But I don't.
I think he's a marketing genius.
It's been said that there's no such thing as bad publicity. I strongly disagree with this saying, but it appears that LaVar Ball is living it right in front of our eyes.
And America loves it.
How many former college basketball players who averaged 2.2 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.0 assists per game in 36 career games have you ever heard of before? We certainly don't know LaVar Ball for his basketball ability...even though he claims that, in his prime, he could have beaten Michael Jordan in one-on-one. I'm going to be honest here, the only person I can think of who I'm positive could beat Michael Jordan in a game of one-on-one is Jesus. Outside of that, anyone else claiming to be able to beat him is probably lying.
Does LaVar really believe he could beat Jordan though? Does it really matter? It's a preposterous statement that got him on the map. He sent Stephen A. Smith into orbit with this statement. LaVar claims that he's "Undefeated! Never lost!" in one-on-one. Is there any way to validate this claim? No, but you know what this claim did? It was a perfect sound bite for ESPN and other shows who talk about sports. I'll bet I've heard that snippet at least 100 times since he said it on "First Take". LaVar can't even suppress his smiles in this interview. Watch it here:
Back in March, LaVar made more headlines when he talked about a shoe deal for his sons. When asked how much he wanted for a deal, he said, "A billion dollars, it has to be there. That's our number, a billion, straight out of the gate. And you don't even have to give it to me all up front. Give us $100 million a year."
I thought it was generous of LaVar not to expect all $1 billion at once.
A billion dollars?! That's a ridiculous number, right? Do you think he REALLY expected a billion though? I don't. I think he was just making waves again. I think he was just keeping his son's names in public consciousness. I think he was just continuing to create a stir.
In May, a month before the NBA draft, LaVar had this to say about which team would draft his son: "Oh, he's going to be a Laker. I'm going to keep talking about it until it happens." This follows what he said back in February about his first son being a Laker (which, at the time, no one even knew they would have the #2 pick in the draft): "I’m going to speak it into existence.”
Guess which team drafted Lonzo Ball last week: The Los Angeles Lakers.
I know a lot of people think LaVar is crazy, but I don't. Like I said, I think he's a marketing genius. I think he's just having fun and that his sons are in on the joke. In fact, this past Monday, EVERYONE should have figured out that all of this is just a shoot...an act...when LaVar and his youngest son made an appearance on WWE's "Monday Night Raw". I've watched professional wrestling for years. I love it. No, I don't think it's "real". I mean, the stuff they do is real...very athletic and impressive...but the results are known ahead of time. Everyone knows that now. The interviews are incredible and always interesting. But, remember, it's an act. Everyone knows it.
And LaVar showed up on the show and acted exactly the way everyone thought he would. He was outrageous. He gave the 3 million people watching exactly what they tuned in to see AND, and this is key, he was wearing his "Big Baller Brand" apparel.
Side note: Have you visited the "Big Baller Brand" website? I have. T-shirts are $50. FIFTY DOLLARS. But I'll bet those things are selling like hotcakes. The new "Sho' time" sneaker is going for $495. I'm not kidding. Look it up.
"Big Baller" indeed.
I don't know what kind of father LaVar is, but from all appearances, he's raised respectful young men. I've heard some people question what effect all of his antics have on his sons. I've heard people question what kind of father he actually is because of this stuff. I don't think that's fair. Here's what I do know about LaVar Ball's parenting: he's present. How many fatherless young men in the world today would love to have a dad like LaVar Ball? I mean, yes, he's living up his fifteen minutes of fame, but look at his body of work as a dad...from what we can see. His sons don't cause trouble. They all three have basketball scholarships to UCLA. That's all I can see though. I just know that he's obviously involved in their lives. He's putting them in the spotlight. In some ways, he doesn't look much different than the crazy sport parent that we've all witnessed in a lot of ways. I don't think he's living his life through his sons though. How many people do you know who do that and, to me, that's so much worse. Look, I'm not defending him for his actions. All I'm saying is that there appears to be a method to his madness. Have you seen Lonzo in the latest Foot Locker commercial? It's brilliant and it suggests that he's in on the joke as well. Watch it here: Would you act the fool to ensure your son's financial future for the rest of his life? I've acted the fool for much less...and you probably have too.
Now, do any of you have $50 I can borrow? I found a really cool t-shirt I want.