This is a familial train wreck waiting to happen.
LaVar Ball is the father of UCLA freshman guard Lonzo Ball, a likely lottery pick in the next NBA draft.
LaVar Ball tends to say colorful things pertaining to his three sons and, in particular, Lonzo, the eldest.
Up to this point a year ago, anything LaVar said about Lonzo fell into the “Lonzo’s just a high-school-kid” category. And most kids let their parents say what they want.
Through high school, anyway.
But Lonzo now is most of the way through his freshman season at UCLA, perhaps only months from an enormous NBA contract — and sometime soon the child may feel empowered to tell the parent: “It’s my career, not yours.”
Especially in the wake of two recent high-profile LaVar pronouncements — declaring his son to be a better basketball player, right now, than Stephen Curry … and telling a radio show he wants his son to play for the Los Angeles Lakers.
So far, LaVar has masterminded his sons’ careers. How long they practice, what they do, where they will go to college. (UCLA, all of them, LaVar says).
So far, it has worked out very well, from the perspective of “kids ready to play at a high level”. Much of what they are seems to reflect directly on methods and advice from LaVar, a personal trainer.
But there often comes a point when kids balk at parental attempts to manage their lives.
I’m guessing LaVar has not thought this through. If he has, he has decided Lonzo won’t be like other kids who demand some space. That Lonzo always will agree with everything his father says.
It doesn’t require great imagination to detect a bit of exasperation in the voice of Lonzo Ball when asked to respond to the “better than Curry” statements LaVar made to TMZ.
Said Lonzo: “All I do is go out and play basketball, man.”
History is replete with sons, especially, who decided not to follow a career path set for them by their parents.
Perhaps the most famous in modern sports is Todd Marinovich, the former USC and Los Angeles Raiders quarterback, whose father, Marv, provided smothering career guidance — right down to diet. Long term, it seemed to damage his son more than help; Todd’s NFL career quickly flamed out.
Lonzo Ball will have millions and millions of dollars of his own money in a few months, and at that point, or sometime in the not-distant future, very possibly will not be the obedient kid who does what dad says he should.
(Kobe Bryant, you may recall, had a rupture with his parents, a few years into his NBA career, and did not speak to them for years at a time. He had money and relationship issues with them that existed right through the end of his career, and this entry by Kobe last year at The Players’ Tribune website addresses the pitfalls of child/parent money/career issues — and could serve as advice for the Balls.)
Even now, Lonzo might wish that his father had not declared him a better player than Curry, the NBA’s two-time MVP.
He also might have considered that playing with an NBA team other than the Lakers, who seem quite some distance from being a contender, might be a preferable option.
Lonzo probably would lose more games in a couple of months with the Lakers than he did in high school and college. And “learning from Magic Johnson” — which LaVar said was key — might not make up for a lot of defeats.
So, yes, we wait for the break. Not with glee or satisfaction, but with “we’ve seen this movie before” in mind.