Some parents live through their kids and never stop bragging about them. Their son isn’t just good, he’s great. Their daughter isn’t merely smart, she’s a genius. Their children are not only talented, they’re unprecedented.
Parents like that are mostly annoying.
But they’re relatively harmless, too.
We imagine that their youngster might be a little embarrassed and resentful, might feel pressure to keep pace with the praise. Maybe it’s a turnoff that leads to burnout. That happens.
However, there also are cases where kids seem fueled by the proclamations, if not unaffected. They reach admirable heights and display impressive dedication. They clearly possess inner drive and there’s no telling how much came from their parents. Anywhere from none to all of it.
Freshman Lonzo Ball, point guard for No. 3 UCLA and a projected top-three draft pick, has a dad like that. Not just a little, either. Some of LaVar Ball’s declarations give Earl Woods and Richard Williams a run for predictions they made about Tiger, Venus and Serena.
“You can’t compare my boy to anyone,” Ball told TMZ Sports recently. “He’s gonna be better than Steph Curry in the NBA.”
Granted, that’s not as brazen as Williams teaching himself tennis, on inner-city public courts, in order to teach his young daughters and forecast their future as all-time greats. And no one can top Woods’ 1996 grandiose claim that his son “will do more than any other man in history to change the course of humanity.”
It should be noted that the golfer and the tennis players turned out pretty good. Also worth mentioning: They play individual sports, which means no one else is impacted by their fathers’ pretentiousness.
Lonzo has teammates and a coach who must meld the individual players – all with distinct personalities and family backgrounds – into a cohesive unit. That becomes a bit more challenging when the star’s father accepts every interview request and puts the son on defense away from the court.
“I’ve been living with him since I’ve been born,” Lonzo told reporters last week. “He’s always been like that. He talks what’s on his mind and all I’ve got to do is go out there and play my game. … I let him do all the talking and I just try to play.”
In an interview on a Tucson radio station Saturday, Ball said he wanted Lonzo to play for the Los Angeles Lakers, even if it meant persuading other teams to pass on him. He backtracked Monday, saying it’s only his desire, not an ultimatum. “I’m not trying to say he won’t play for a different team,” Ball told ESPN. “But I’d like him to play for the Lakers because it’s home, and I’d love him to learn from Magic (Johnson).”
Scout.com’s Evan Daniels tweeted that “multiple NBA executives are concerned about Lonzo’s father,” as if they might shy away from the 6-foot-6 point guard who averages 15.4 points, 7.6 assists and 6.1 rebounds per game. Other commentators suggest that Ball is firing up his son’s future NBA opponents, who’ll be eager to prove the old man wrong.
But NBA executives have greater worries than a prospect’s braggadocious dad, like the player’s character. And NBA players can’t have more incentive to put a hotshot rookie in his place, whether his parent says a peep or a mouthful.
Ball’s dreams for his sons – LiAngelo is a senior and LaMelo a sophomore at Chino Hills (Calif.) High – are larger than most. He has said that all three will be No. 1 overall draft picks. He said the Bruins will win a national championship with his boys (LiAngelo and LaMelo are UCLA commits). He also envisions Lonzo shifting the paradigm in negotiations with sneaker companies.
“They’re kicking in the door, but they’re shocked at what I’m telling them,” Ball said Monday on ESPN’s Los Angeles radio station. “I said, ‘I’m not looking for no endorsement deal. I’m looking for a marketing and distribution deal.’ Branding.
“The only person doing that is (Michael) Jordan with Nike,” Ball said. “That’s what we’re for. If Lonzo doesn’t sign with Adidas, Nike or Under Armour, guess what – I’ll sign the Big Baller Brand. We already got our own brand. Triple B’s. Lonzo is going to be the first one drafted with his own brand. That don’t happen.”
In that regard, Ball has some Richard Williams in him. Just as Williams shunned the junior circuit and other traditional components for developing tennis stars, Ball operates his AAU team – Big Ballers – without sneaker money, recruiting or the extensive travel typically associated with high-level summer hoops.
Going further against the grain is nothing for the former two-sport athlete at Cal State-Los Angeles. If that rubs folks the wrong way, it’s their problem. His style has never detracted from his boys’ substance and he sees no reason to change just because Lonzo has hit the national stage.
“I know what my son’s about,” Ball said. “He knows what I’m about. Now, all these people saying, ‘Oh, LaVar needs to shut up and let his son just play.’ No. You shut up and let my son just play. I’m going to say whatever I want to say, and I’ve been like this all my life.”
You might disagree with the approach.
But you can’t argue with the results.