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COLUMN: LaVar Ball: Sports Media’s Monster


LaVar Ball greets fans during halftime on July 7, 2017 at the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, Nev.  Photo courtesy of Tribune News Service Buy Photos

There are two types of fools.

First, there is the harmless fool. Harmless fools, like myself, are those who do dumb, trivial little things throughout the day and don’t even realize it.

From my own experience, we harmless fools will do something like forget where we put our car keys when we just put them in our pocket, or make the mistake of saying something to a girlfriend along the lines of "Boy, you haven’t worn makeup in a while have you?" and not realize why that might make somebody mad.

Harmless fools are everywhere and although they can be frustrating at times, they are exactly what they sound like – harmless.

Then, there is the bumbling fool.

A bumbling fool and a harmless fool are pretty similar. Both don’t usually realize when they are being truly ignorant.

The only difference between the two is that the constant spouting of the bumbling fool can prove to be somewhat harmful to themselves and their loved ones around them.

Bumbling fools have been rather common in the world of sports, but I can’t remember a more brash and radical one than LaVar Ball, father of Lonzo, LiAngelo and LaMelo.

Nobody spouts more outrageous proclamations on a consistent basis than Ball. At first, I truly believed it was all an act.

Statements like how he could have taken Michael Jordan one-on-one back in his prime, or that Lonzo as a freshman at UCLA was already better than Stephen Curry, seemed so preposterous that he could not be serious.

When the inception of the Big Baller Brand came along, it all made sense to me. Of course he wasn’t serious. He’s just marketing his lowbrow apparel.

However, as Ball continues to spiral down the rabbit hole of egotistical self-made publicity, I’ve started to question my original conclusion.

The most recent stops on LaVar’s world tour have been all over the map. After Lonzo was drafted by the Lakers second overall in last year’s draft, his father has been patrolling the stands of the Staples Center.

As the Lakers start to prove how bad of a team they really are, Ball has convinced himself it can’t be his family’s fault. Recently, he’s made waves by blaming it on Lakers head coach Luke Walton, saying the players don’t want to play for him.

Blaming it on the coach, just like during his children’s high school days at Chino Hills.

The Ball family has also been in the news in China, where LiAngelo and some of his UCLA teammates were caught shoplifting and faced potential years in a Chinese prison.

After Ball and his teammates were eventually allowed to come back home, his father made it into a war of words between himself and the President of the United States.

That leads to their new destination. After pulling LiAngelo out of UCLA and LaMelo out of Chino Hills, they’re now playing professionally in a low-level league in Lithuania.

With Lithuanian referees sporting the Big Baller Brand logo on their shirts during games, that’s when I knew this has gone too far to just be an act.

The truth is, LaVar Ball is just an attention junkie and we just keep feeding him the goods.

There’s no doubt that Lonzo and Lakers president, Magic Johnson, need to confront Ball about the situation in Los Angeles.

There are crazy parents at every level of sports from pee-wee to college that don’t know their place. But that doesn’t fly in the pros.

If something isn’t done, Lonzo’s future with the Lakers and his relationship with his teammates could be in jeopardy. It won’t be long before Walton or the players think every outrageous comment made by LaVar is coming from the mouth of Lonzo.

While a behind-the-scenes meeting is needed, more media exposure is not. As Ball continues to ramble on, it seems that the media have created a monster that they can’t stop from growing.

Just like a flea lives off a dog’s body, Ball lives off every second of ESPN screen time he gets.

Lonzo and the Lakers are currently 13-27 and second to last in the Western Conference standings. Yet, hardly a day goes by that you don’t see Sportscenter anchor/Lakers super-fan Cari Champion continue to hype them up, or an exasperated Jeff Goodman interviewing LaVar in a gym in Lithuania.

As Lonzo is outperformed by other rookies such as Ben Simmons, Donovan Mitchell and Kyle Kuzma, and other teams like the Denver Nuggets and New Orleans Pelicans actually fight for playoff positions, the Ball family continues to take precedent at ESPN.

Let LaVar flourish overseas and become a household name in the Baltic Basketball League. Let him become the commissioner of it. Heck, let him become prime minister or whatever the top-ranking government official is in Lithuania.

Just leave him out of the limelight of our screens.

Obviously, LaVar needs to tone it down if he wants his sons to be able to expand their basketball careers, but that won’t happen as long as he gets his exposure and there are people other than himself to blame for anything involving his kids.

Maybe the media should move on from this obsession and let this particular bumbling fool become a mere footnote in the NBA that fades away in Eastern Europe.


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