STATESIDE: LaVar Ball, the embarrassing dad who won’t go away

Steve Brenner 08:34 29/03/2017
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Big brand, big mouth: LaVar Ball is living the NBA dream, on the back of his sons.

The race to become the most risible person in sport has a clear leader. LaVar Ball, a man with an ego the size of his permanently open mouth, has been polluting the airwaves here ad nauseum.

There was a glimmer of hope that after son Lonzo’s UCLA team crashed out of March Madness on Friday night, this shameless selfpublicist may disappear back into the faux celebrity hole from which he crawled.

Yet within moments of that defeat, Lonzo declared his intention to enter the NBA draft.

The teenage college star will be one of the top picks and has a chance of making it – as do younger brothers LiAngelo and LaMelo – yet if LaVar is to be believed, all three will better than Michael Jordan and worthy of $1 billion footwear deals.

Oh yes, this deluded man who, lest we forget, used to play American football for the London Monarchs, seriously thinks that his little clan (NBA appearances – 0, $100,000 BMW’s – two) should pen agreements that will usurp the $500m Nike handed LeBron James.

The Balls have talent. But a reality check is needed. “You got LeBron — it’s going to be hard for his kids because they are going to look at them like, ‘You got to be just like your dad,’” Ball said.

“And after a while, that pressure starts sitting on you like, ‘Why do I got to be just like him? What can’t I just be me?’ And then they are going to be like, ‘Aw, you’re soft. You’re not that good.’ Because the expectation is very, very high.”

There has since been some backtracking yet needless to say, James was furious. Poke holes at him? Fine. But his kids? That’s another ball game entirely.

“He can talk all about his brand, talk about his sons, talk about basketball, talk about me,” James said. “But keep my family out of this.”

LaVar is a pushy parent gone nuclear. A constantly grinning parody living unfulfilled dreams through his children. He is often trailed by a camera crew in the hope his life and son’s pursuit of greatness could be turned into a reality horror show.

Of course, he loves his kids. But this kind of needless pressure could destroy careers before they’ve started. Just ask Stephan Gilling what it’s like to have him around.

The coach of Chino Hills, the team in California which LiAngelo and LaMelo play for, has detailed the embarrassing contretemps which ensued during a game late last year after Ball Snr kept shouting down the coach’s instructions from the stands.

“He comes to me and says, ‘What are you doing? What are you doing?’ I said, ‘What do you mean? I’m trying to win the game,’” Gilling told USA Today.

“He turns around and walks to our locker room. I said, ‘LaVar, don’t go into the locker room.’ He continues walking. I said, ‘LaVar, why are you trying to embarrass me?’ And he just kept walking and goes into the locker room. He’s in there sitting down with the team.” It didn’t stop there. He got all the players out of their rooms and let them know it was his system which did the trick. “He was saying ‘I run Chino Hills! I run UCLA, about to run the NBA!’” added Gilling.

The problem with parents like LaVar however, is that their brains and mouths don’t operate in tandem.

Furthermore, the mindless bleating – “I would kill Jordan 1-on-1” and “Lonzo is better than Steph Curry” are two gems – is so transparent, it’s cringeworthy.

Whenever anyone has the misfortune to see him on TV, he is wearing a ‘Big Baller Brand’ t-shirt – that’s the same Big Baller Brand company he’s set up in the hope it will fill his bank account for years to come.

Modern society and the penchant for giving those who shout loudest the grandest platforms – Donald Trump, I’m talking to you – shoulders some blame.

But you can’t help but feel sympathy for his boys who have to smile every time dad makes an utter fool of himself. Unfortunately for them, they don’t have an off-switch on their TV.

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