By: Andrew Nason
He's a former professional football player and a current AAU basketball coach. He owns his own business. He has a son who is about to be a top pick in the NBA draft, and two more heading to college to play basketball on scholarships. He is one of the most talked about people in America. If you didn't know who I was talking about, you would probably think "wow, this guy is awesome!"
But you and I both know the person that matches that description. He's the most controversial figure in American sports, the one and only, LaVar Ball.
The horrible parent, the sexist, the crazy man, the guy who scored like 2 points a game in college and still thinks he can beat Michael Jordan one on one, and so on. Everything you hear about him is generally negative, and I understand why. He's a bit arrogant, he says exactly what is on his mind, in a day and age where that isn't exactly the most socially acceptable thing to do, and while he always seems to be positive about everything, he tends to be a bit impolite. For lack of a better term, LaVar Ball is a jerk (I had another word, but I guess I'll keep it PG).
But you know what, I think all that is what makes him such a good father and an American success story. Think about it...
This man has trained his sons since they were barely talking to play basketball, and has laid out a perfect plan to get them to the NBA and become not only professional athletes, but trendsetters, wolves among dogs. They're going to play at UCLA, one of the most storied institutions in the NCAA and a basketball powerhouse. The place where John Wooden, the greatest coach ever, taught the game. They're all going to go to the NBA and play for the Los Angeles Lakers, the 2nd greatest franchise in NBA history (there's some love for all you Celtics fans), where they can not only be successful on the court, but they can take advantage of the off the court marketing opportunities to grow their own personal brand. Speaking of brands, forget the normal Nike, Under Armour and Adidas stuff, the Ball boys will have their very own brand, Big Baller Brand. Who else can say they had their own brand? No one in the league. LaVar has his sons on a path to fame and success, and maybe I'm wrong, but the boys seem to be just fine with that.
If this plan works, everyone wins. The boys get to play together and become rich, famous, influential athletes, and LaVar grows his brand. It's his dream, and right now, he's taking the steps necessary to turn that dream into a reality.
Lonzo is set to be a high pick in this years draft, and the younger boys, LiAngelo is on his way to UCLA, and LaMelo is committed. Big Baller Brand has been established for awhile now, and thanks to Lonzo's success in college and LaVar's loud personality, is nationally recognized. They've produced clothing, slides, and now, most importantly, a basketball sneaker.
So next? Get Lonzo to the Lakers, who own the number 2 pick. The best way to make sure that happens is pretty simple, make sure the whole league know he won't workout for anyone other than the purple and gold. Lonzo's good enough to be picked 2nd, and who would want a player who didn't want to work out for them? It's controlling the draft, and it's brilliant. Hell, he even said the Celtics, who own the 1st pick, should take someone other than Lonzo, just so he wouldn't go there.
Now how to grow Big Baller Brand even more? Well, the best way is to get the name out there as much as possible. LaVar did that when he publicly turned down the big 3 shoe companies for a chance to work together, and the release of the $500 ($495 my bad) shoe really sparked up conversations. Now he's making radical statements while wearing his gear, saying Lonzo is better than Steph Curry, saying he could beat Jordan, and more radical nonsense. Hell, he made disrespectful comments to and refused to even look at talk show host Kristine Leahy, telling her to "stay in yo lane," and he took that saying and turned it into a $60 t-shirt. He knows how to market. Was anyone outside of Chino Hills, California talking about BBB before the 2016-2017 NCAA men's basketball season? No. In fact I doubt anyone had any idea the brand even existed. Now it's known all over the country!
I think LaVar is the dad everyone wants and the go getter everyone wants to be, he's just a lot more arrogant about it than we would like him to be. As a father, who wouldn't want their dad to do everything in his power to help them turn their dreams into a reality? And as a business man, getting people to talk about your product is how you grow your business, and people are talking a whole lot about Big Baller Brand, even if it isn't for the best reasons. But hey, how's the old saying go? There's no such thing as bad publicity?
So yes, I admire LaVar's drive. I admire what he's doing for his sons, and his brand. I aspire to have the guts to chase my dreams as aggressively as he has. Now would I go about it a bit differently? Of course. I wouldn't go on TV and call out superstars, at least not as much as he has. I wouldn't berate my sons coaches in public. I wouldn't be as disrespectful to public figures and media personalities as he has. In general I would tone the arrogance down, but hey, no one is perfect, and who am I to say what he is doing is wrong. If he is happy, and his family is happy, then that is all that matters.
So keep doing you LaVar. I suggest being nicer about it, but you know what's best for you. Do me one favor though, teach LaMelo to play defense.
(photo courtesy of ftw.usatoday.com)