LaVar Ball’s Ultimate Goal Doesn’t Matter
LaVar Ball really doesn’t need a thorough introduction. The father of three pro-basketball sons, rose to fame in 2016, and is now a household name for any NBA fan in the country. LaVar, with his Ric Flair-esque bravado, relishes being somewhat of an enigma, without a care in the world for who roots against him. At times LaVar has come across as a like-able guy. The Ball family’s Facebook show “Ball in the Family” presents audiences with a father who seems to love his family more than being the caricature we see on CNN. No amount of good editing, can change the fact America has also seen the obnoxious, fame-hungry, Marv Marinovich 2.0 side of the basketball father. These two sides, existing in the same universe, have created discussions of race, parenting, and culture.
LaVar has had his questionable public relations moments. Arguably the most notable was his Kristine Leahy interview, on Colin Cowherd’s “The Herd”. While the “Stay in yo lane” comments were disrespectful, many rooted LaVar taking on Leahy and Jason Whitlock thus creating the paradox of LaVar Ball. Should the idea of independence be championed, even if the man behind the idea is tiring to root for? The concept of player independence isn’t new. Whether it should be supported is another conversation on its own. The ideas from LaVar seem over the moon at times, but in the same sense reasonable. Why shouldn’t more players try to earn money by going pro early? Why hasn’t Nike, Adidas, or a company with enough financial backing, created a pro-league alternative to the NCAA? These questions seem reasonable to ask, and even more reasonable in questioning possible solutions. Whether he fails or succeeds, we’ve seen LaVar’s ideas have reinvigorated discussion on the topic of “collegiate athletes”.
It’s important to point out some of the racial components behind rooting for LaVar Ball. The concept of a black man striving for independence from a system that takes advantage of its workers, has long been romanticized in the black community. The recognition of a black man, who has raised three black sons, without them being statistics (jail time, or dead before 18) is also something which should be championed. In an age where we continually hear about the absence of the black father, LaVar has been the opposite, raising three young black men to be professional basketball players. It’s hard to ignore such a fact, when understanding the cultural complexity in why many try to champion LaVar and his success. Seeing someone with a large platform loudly question a system built on predominately black culture and bodies, is enticing to root for. These cultural complexities certainly don’t erase the sins of being a jackass, but they do give reason for many to excuse the man behind the ideas.
LaVar doesn’t need excuses, or defending, he is who he is. What shouldn’t be in question, is his parenting. Truth be told, to this point, the man has been lucky enough to have it all work. His sons are seemingly loved in Lithuania, and LaVar was able to garner 175K viewers for their first game. His oldest son made it to the Lakers, being drafted second overall. Big Baller Brand pop up shops bring thousands of fans, despite the product pricing. “Ball in the Family” brings in millions of viewers, continuing to prove people are still interest. What happens moving forward, is up for question. Will his JBA basketball league work? No idea. Will LaMelo and LiAngelo land on the Lakers after playing in Lithuania? Odds probably aren’t in their favor. Does it matter the Better Business Bureau gave “Big Baller Brand” an “F”? Absolutely not. Truth is, none of it really matters, because LaVar continues to accomplish what he ultimately wants: garnering attention. What he’s garnering attention for, will continue to be irrelevant, as long as he gets it. It’s easy to take aim at him, or ESPN, or any media outlet that continues to put a microphone in front of him, but Steve Kerr said it best, “He’s become the Kardashian of the NBA, and that sells…this is not a condemnation of ESPN. It’s a societal issue”. As long as the Ball family is selling, society will keep on buying. It’s interesting Kerr compared LaVar to becoming the “Kardashian of the NBA”, because it seems the Ball family isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon.
Sources: ESPN, USA Today, TMZ, The Ringer, Deadspin, YouTube, Facebook