Love him or hate him — or maybe not hate, but just get really annoyed by him — LaVar Ball has been the talk of basketball circles for months. Sure enough, the subject of UCLA star Lonzo Ball’s attention-mongering father came up recently in a podcast involving three members of the Cavaliers, and Cleveland’s Channing Frye made it clear that LaVar Ball has already done much to poison the well for his son, who is expected to be a top-three pick in June’s NBA draft.
After Frye’s teammate Kyrie Irving said of Lonzo, “I want to see what he has, now,” adding that he and others were “just excited for him to get to the league,” Frye replied, “It doesn’t even matter at this point.”
“I’m going to give you the people’s opinion,” Frye said on “Road Trippin’ with RJ and Channing.” He continued, “No matter what he does, it is going to be so easy to hate on [Lonzo] now.
“It’s going to be disgustingly easy to hate on him.”
Frye’s comments were a reflection of the enormous shadow LaVar Ball has cast across his son with his nonstop stream of boasts and other outlandish remarks. Even the introduction of Lonzo’s signature shoe, in theory a useful first step into the professional ranks, was marked by a storm of criticism and mockery over its $495 pricetag.
LaVar Ball, ever ready to take a media circus to new heights of hysteria, then responded to a question about Michael Jordan’s first signature shoe costing much less than that by saying His Airness “ain’t Lonzo Ball.” The sneakers in question, of course, are part of the Ball family’s Big Baller Brand of merchandise, the promotion of which lies at the heart of LaVar Ball’s indefatigable hucksterism.
The potential pitfall for LaVar Ball is that his mouth has been writing a seemingly endless amount of checks that his son now needs to cash in the NBA. If Lonzo flops, or even takes a long time to develop, his father’s big talk will ring hollow and the precious brand will almost certainly fail (it is worth noting, though, that Lonzo has two younger brothers, both of whom are considered excellent players at the high school level).
As he tries to get acclimated to the NBA game and going up against the best basketball players in the world, it won’t help Lonzo Ball if his opponents are particularly motivated to knock him down a peg, if only to shut his father up. Noting that Ball will already be facing a historically excellent crop of NBA point guards, including himself, Irving said, “Then you start adding, I mean, we’ve seen it. We’ve seen people be implemented into the spotlight, and it just draws an even bigger target on them. We’ve seen it.”
“I think from my perspective, everyone that looks at his situation that I’ve kind of been around or talked basketball with, they look at the kid with almost — pity is not the right word — but just like, ‘Man, that situation just looks off,'” Cavs forward Richard Jefferson said on the podcast. He pointed out, though, that unlike his father, Lonzo Ball appears to be a “quiet, somewhat humble kid,” one who “makes his teammates better” and “plays basketball the right way.”
“If this kid was talking the way his dad was talking, oh, then it would be a whole ‘nother world,” Jefferson said. “It would be a whole ‘nother, ‘Oh, yeah, we’re going to baptize this kid.’ But you see … a guy that just plays hard and passes the ball. And he’s young, but he’s compared to [Jason] Kidd and has this high level of basketball I.Q. just off his instincts. As a basketball player, you’re a fan of that. That’s a guy that you would want on your team.”
Irving, whose mother died when he was four and whose father was highly involved in his development as a basketball player, had some praise for LaVar Ball. “As a father, the foundation he’s laid for his children, I couldn’t be any [more] proud of him,” Irving said. “He was the one that put the ball in their crib. As cliché as that sounds, he was the one that pushed them in that direction to play basketball.”
But Irving added of the polarizing patriarch, “When he starts going off and saying, ‘I could beat Michael Jordan one-on-one,’ and … he compared Lonzo to Uber and taxi, come on. Just relax a little bit. Take a step back and realize the impact that you can make, not for the moment now, but for the future. Lonzo is going to be in the NBA regardless. But at the end of the day, he still is going into another world that you can’t control.”