LaVar Ball’s seemingly endless list of quotes, comments and statements have made him one of the most polarizing figures in sports today. Most are annoyed by Ball’s constant boasting on himself and his sons. Regardless what people are saying about this man, he’s a genius. Millions of dollars in promotions from major brands, ESPN, FOX Sports, every local news network. He may not get a Billion dollar shoe deal but he will receive multi-millions, maybe not soon but soon! Kristine Leahy give him instant marketing after he disappeared for awhile if I was Lavar ball I would start a sports and marketing company.
I must admit that was my initial reaction to his constant self-promotion and attention-seeking comments, but I’m beginning to change my tune. As a matter of fact, I admire his vision, sticktoitiveness, and unapologetic commitment.
He’s part Joe Jackson, part Conor McGregor, but a 100 percent marketing genius – even in his insanity.
In case you’ve been in exile, Ball is the father of the Ball Brothers.
Lonzo is the oldest. He attends UCLA and he’s one of the nation’s best college basketball players. He has a chance to be selected No. 1 overall in the June draft, assuming he declares. LiAngelo and LaMelo are both still in high school at Chino Hills where they have helped push the school to national prominence.
They too will be attending UCLA when they leave high school. LiAngelo is a senior and he’s headed there in the fall. LaMelo is just a sophomore, so he still has two years remaining in high school.
The Ball brothers have each had their moments in the national spotlight over the past six months. Lonzo’s outstanding play has helped to lead the UCLA Bruins to a third seed in the 2017 NCAA Tournament. LiAngelo scored 128 points on a two-game scoring spree early in the season.
LaMelo would score 92 points in a game later in the season. Collectively, the boys are among the most popular basketball players in the world and none of the three have played a minute in the NBA. Their father LaVar is partly to blame/credit for their ascension, and I’m not just talking about genetics.
LaVar has put together a list of eye-popping comments that have often seemed too outlandish to be sincere. LaVar has said Lonzo is better than two-time NBA MVP Steph Curry, and he’s made a slew of other questionable and seemingly egregious claims and statements during his son’s meteoric rise to fame.
Most recently, LaVar talked about demanding a $1 billion shoe contract that covers all three of the Ball sons. That level of confidence, audacity, and brashness screams: controlling father, or here’s a man trying to live vicariously through his children.
At one point, Ball played for Washington State University, but he was far from a standout.
In fact, during his only season with the program, he averaged 2.2 points per game over 26 contests. That makes one of his claims all the more preposterous. The eldest Ball said in his heyday, he’d “kill” Michael Jordan in one-on-one.
LaVar’s modest hoops career also supports the notion that he wants to live through the talents of his children. However, there are more to LaVar’s actions. There’s a method to his madness.
Believe it or not, LaVar is a visionary. He’s looking to build his son’s brand and to get them the biggest chunk of endorsement dollars available. He believes his three sons are special and capable of creating a triple-headed marketing monster, unlike anything the world has ever seen.
“A brand is one of the biggest things you can have,” Lavar says in an interview with USA Today. “It’s a hard thing to attain, so nobody wants to attain it and not too many people think that far ahead.”
Does he stand to benefit from this brand, monetarily and emotionally? Absolutely, but I’d never suggest that he doesn’t care for his sons and have their best interest in mind.
That said, LaVar knows the weaknesses of his children. He knows Lonzo is not much of a self-promoter, and that his seemingly quiet nature may not allow him to capitalize on his earning potential. LiAngelo and LaMelo are perhaps even more vulnerable.
They’re clearly the lesser talented players. Most evaluators will tell you, Lonzo is the real talent. If I had to give a player comparison to LiAngelo, it would be Jared Dudley. He’s built like an undersized power forward, but he’s limited athletically.
LaMelo is a little too young to gauge, but he too has less than freakish athleticism and less-than-ideal form on his jump shot. I wonder if he’ll be able to create his own shot on the next level or beat collegiate defenders off the dribble.
Both LiAngelo and LaMelo appear to be Division I college basketball players, but it’s no slam dunk that either of the younger Balls will reach the level of their older brother.
To that point, not even Lonzo is a sure thing. Even can’t-miss prospects sometimes miss.
Don’t think for a second LaVar is unaware. He knows his son’s games better than anyone else. He also probably knows their limitations. LaVar may realize LiAngelo and LaMelo need to ride their brother’s coattail for awhile.
At some point perhaps they will blossom on their own, ala Seth Curry, or have their careers fade. In any case, if LaVar can build their individual and collective brands in the meantime, the boys could benefit before the disparity in talent separates them in the eyes of the masses.
As of now, a good percentage of the youth are still enthralled with LiAngelo and LaMelo. LiAngelo’s 128-point explosion has more than 758,000 views on YouTube and LaMelo’s 92-point game has over 5 million.
If LaVar can somehow find a way to capitalize on the sensational appetite for his sons, and his own commentary, he’ll be ahead of the game should they all become above-average NBA players? If they don’t, he will still have helped them maximize their potential.
Is LaVar a distraction? It’s too early to know for sure, but judging by the three boys’ performances, it’s hard to find evidence that supports that claim.
Meanwhile, LaVar is pretty much following the handbook for building a personal brand to a tee. Per Entrepreneur.com, building an effective personal brand is accomplished by doing the following:
- Understanding and being authentic to yourself
- Arranging speaking engagements, and speaking on a regular basis
- Write thought leadership articles and participating in interviews
- Building an online presence
- Remain a student of your industry
“People say to my boys, man your dad is crazy. You know what they’re saying,” LaVar asks rhetorically. “Tell us something we don’t know. He been crazy all his life and when we came out, he was crazy. So whatever is on the outside talking about us, it doesn’t matter.”
He knows who he is, and even more liberating, he knows what people think of him and he’s OK with the perception. If that’s not understanding one’s self, the concept doesn’t exist.
LaVar’s comments have become so sought after, that just about anytime he opens his mouth with a microphone nearby, he’s arranging speaking engagements. He has no problem speaking on a regular basis about his sons and himself. He’s the mouthpiece, the Paul Heyman to Lonzo, LiAngelo and LaMelo’s Brock Lesnar.
While he doesn’t write thought leadership articles – that we know of – he clearly isn’t shy about participating in interviews and presenting himself as an expert.
In this day and age, building an online presence is almost automatic, but just in case, it appears LaVar has a Twitter account that reinforces his boasts about his sons and his own hoops prowess.
Is LaVar aware of other fathers of famous child athletes? You bet.
“People try to compare me to some of these other dads, like Tiger Woods’ dad and Venus and Serena,” LaVar said “They don’t get it. Those guys play one-on-one sports. My boys play a team sport. So it’s not about him going one on one.”
LaVar’s plan is clearly working. I’m writing an article about him. His sons’ names are lighting up social media and even the term “LaVar Ball says” is trending on google at the time this article was published.
LaVar knows what he’s up against and he’s ready to take the heat. He is all in for his sons, and I can’t knock his hustle.
Follow Brian “FranchisePlay” Mazique on Twitter @UniqueMazique and subscribe to his gaming YouTube channel: FranchisePlay Sports