LeBron James became the latest NBA luminary to take issue with comments made by LaVar Ball, to the dismay of some frustrated that the father of UCLA star Lonzo Ball continues to make news. However, given the nature of the remarks to which James took exception, perhaps the only surprise is that it took the Cavs forward as much as a week to respond.
Ball had been talking about how his own underwhelming basketball career allowed him to “take the time to make my boys all that,” whereas the sons of NBA stars have had difficulty following in their fathers’ footsteps. Or as Ball put it last week on a podcast hosted by Chris Broussard of Fox Sports, “There’s been a lot of great players, and all of their sons are wack. … Kareem’s got sons, Jordan’s got sons, Shaq’s got sons.”
“You’ve got LeBron, it’s gonna be so hard for his kids,” Ball continued, “because going to look at them like, ‘You gotta be just like your dad.’ And after a while that pressure starts sitting on you, like, ‘Why do I gotta be like him, why can’t I just be me?’ And then they’re gonna be like, ‘Aww, you’re soft, you’re not that good.’ Because the expectation is very, very high.”
“Keep my kids’ name out of your mouth, keep my family out of your mouth,” James said Tuesday, as reported by ESPN. “This is dad to dad.
“It’s a problem now.”
As it happened, James offered his warning to Ball while at UCLA, where the Cavs were practicing following weekend games against the Clippers and Lakers. Lonzo Ball has been a freshman sensation for the Bruins and is expected to be a top-five pick in the June’s NBA draft, while his two younger brothers, 18-year-old LiAngelo and 15-year-old LaMelo, are high school standouts also set to play at UCLA.
James’s sons, 12-year-old LeBron James Jr. and 9-year-old Bryce Maximus James, have turned heads in their own right. “He handles the ball exceptionally and he shoots it a lot better than I did at that age, but I’ve always had the ability to pass the ball,” James said of his eldest recently. “It’s good to see him doing it as well.”
Naturally, Ball saw fit to respond to James’s comments, but unlike in his fiery retorts to Charles Barkley, he took a low-key approach. “I have no problem with LeBron, they asked me a question about if I thought superstar players’ kids were good,” the 49-year-old said on Fox Sports Radio. “My opinion is I’ve never seen one that’s been really good. LeBron is going to make his kid one of the best players ever, according to him.”
“I’ve never seen one really live up to what their dad has done, so he could be the first,” Ball added. “It’s not about me having his kid’s name in my mouth, I’m not worried about his family. If somebody asks me a question, I’ll answer it the way I want to answer it.”
The way Ball wanted to answer questions about Barkley recently was with some insults. The Hall of Famer and TNT analyst had labeled as “stupidity” Ball’s boasts that Lonzo was better than Steph Curry. After some back-and-forth, and in reference to another Ball boast, that in his “heyday” he “would kill Michael Jordan one-on-one,” Barkley challenged Ball to a one-on-one matchup.
“That boy is out of shape — if I played him now, it’d kill him,” Ball said of Barkley. “He’s too big. Just enjoy talking and eating Krispy Kreme doughnuts, he’ll be fine.”
On Tuesday, Ball commented on his sudden notoriety, saying, “I’ve been talking all my life, and now the cameras are in front of me. … If you want to ask me a question I’m going to give you an answer, because I have freedom of speech to say whatever I want. It’s just for conversation the next day.”
That may be, but it’s clear that James wants Ball to refrain from mentioning his sons in future conversations. “He can talk all about his brand, talk about his sons, talk about basketball, talk about me,” James, who complimented Lonzo Ball’s “game,” told ESPN. “But keep my family out of this.”