If you read the title of this piece and scoffed because you haven’t heard many media stories regarding this outside of the aforementioned LaVar Ball, you’re highlighting the problem right there. The sports media hasn’t put enough emphasis on the problem that is “sports parents” over the years, but that doesn’t mean the problem doesn’t exist.
I can tell you first — or second, I guess — hand that it does. Looking back at my days in both AAU basketball and tournament tennis play, I can say that the overbearing sports dads and moms run rampant throughout every sport and are often so obnoxious that they embarrass the very athletes they are there for.
LaVar Ball has become, if you really think about it, the first example in mainstream media of a parent that is clearly and unabashedly riding his sons' coattails.
If you’re at all unfamiliar with the Ball family, I’ll give you a quick rundown. LaVar Ball is the father of Lonzo Ball, a UCLA freshman and soon-to-be top-10 NBA draft pick, along with LiAngelo and LaMelo Ball, two UCLA commits that currently play for Chino Hills High School in California.
These three kids — and they’re all under 20 so, as a 26-year-old man, I’ll refer to them as “kids” — all have the potential to go far and be successful professional players. As I said, Lonzo is clearly declaring after the NCAA tournament and should be a top-10 draft pick.
LaVar Ball never, ever came close to what his three kids have already done. To clarify, Ball played one year of college ball back in the mid-80s at Washington State, and averaged 2.2 points per game off the bench.
Throughout his son’s first season at UCLA, LaVar has put himself in the spotlight, arguably more than Lonzo, one of the NCAA’s top guards at one of the NCAA’s top tier programs. LaVar has spent time on every major sports media show — First Take, Sportsnation, Undisputed, The Herd — spouting line after line about how his kids are going to be better than Steph Curry, how Lonzo will only play for the Lakers, how the trio deserves a $1 billion shoe deal before they are even proven in the league — and before two of them have even hit college.
He’s discussed how he could take His Airness, the greatest basketball player ever, Michael Jordan in a game of one-on-one and fired back at Charles Barkley, stated that his kids are set up for success more than LeBron’s kids are, and frankly just disrespected a league that none of his kids have even played a game in.
And then there’s his clothing line…
Big Baller Brand, terrible name aside, is a “lifestyle apparel company…inspired by the 3 Ball brothers from Chino, California.” But let’s call it what it really is: a shameless cash grab for the father of those 3 Ball brothers from Chino, California. All you have to do is look at the apparel’s prices to see that.
A run-of-the-mill T-shirt that states “Big Baller Brand” (in UCLA colors, mind you) costs $60. And it is an ugly shirt too, one that I doubt anyone reading this would pay $20 for let alone $60.
Hoodies start at $60 and run all the way up to $80. Beanies and hats start at $38 and the most expensive hits $100. $100! For perspective, Chance the Rapper brought out a very, very limited edition set of Chicago White Sox hats and the most expensive of those was $50. And that’s Chance the Freakin’ Rapper. Not LaVar the Nothing Ball.
It’s disgusting what this guy is getting away with, riding the wave of his sons’ successes. He is the epitome of a sports dad, a parent who cares more about what his kids do for his name and his bank account more than what they do for themselves.
This is a rare instance where the parent overshadows the athlete in the media and the media is allowing it. Allowing him on all of these sports talk shows day after day, just because of some stupid shit he said WHILE TALKING TO THE MEDIA, is a big part of the problem. But it’s also highlighting something that needs to be taken more seriously: that parents of predominant athletes need to be more concerned with how those athletes turn out as human beings than what those athletes do for the family name.
I sincerely hope the Ball kids have all the success in the world and they are certainly trending in that direction. I just hope none of them are derailed by the reckless, selfish behavior of a father figure that never had athletic success and is now placing the weight of his ego on the their shoulders.