This morning basketball pundits from across the media spectrum are discussing LaVar Ball once again. As in the past, the decisions that he is making for the future of his children are front and center. On Monday, it was announced that LaMelo was pulled out of school by his father, who will home school and train him for two years. LaMelo, who recently became the first high school player in history with his own signature athletic shoe, is a highly-touted junior and is said to be a better shooter and scorer than both of his elder brothers. He averaged 26 per game as a sophomore.
One of the primary knocks against the elder Ball was the manner in which he hyped up and promoted his children. Some have even gone as far as saying he’s “prostituting” them. Indeed, I have to concur that LaVar does seem to be the ultimate helicopter parent, hovering over his kids and all of their accomplishments.
But, it’s more than strange that he’s getting so much guff in a country that continually mentions black parenting, or the lack thereof, as a key marker in how much success children are able to squeeze out of life. In a country where 1-in-4 children are raised in a single-parent household, people are frowning up their faces because a black man has ultimate faith in his kids and the confidence to tell anyone who will listen. That just sounds so stupid to me.
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Back in June, the venerable Kareem Abdul Jabbar had this to say about Ball during an interview with 95.7 The Fan:
“Everybody knows about his sons because he has been able to hype them. But I don’t think that’s good for college basketball,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “College basketball is starting to look like a … it doesn’t look good. It looks like it’s a huckster show. And that bothers me, you know. You have people going those lengths to promote their kids. I don’t get it.”
Since that time, Louisville men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino, widely regarded as one of the top recruiters in the nation, lost his job due to being directly linked to a scheme to funnel money to prospective student athletes via footwear company Adidas. I wonder what Kareem has to say about the ""hallowed" institution of college basketball now.
Quite frankly, big time college basketball has always been a “huckster show” and Mr. Jabbar's statement seems naïve at best. Now that a father is trying to blaze a trail for his children rather than having them being taken advantage of by the status quo HE’S the problem? Ok. (In my Jay Z voice)
Most parents don’t have to worry about what the media has to say about their individual parenting skills. Most people don’t have children that are so exceptional that they garner national media coverage. However, the Balls aren’t your average progeny. When you have extraordinary kids, extraordinary steps are required to groom and protect them.
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For those of a certain age, the media scrutiny heaped upon Richard Williams when rearing daughters Venus and Serena into all-time tennis greats is reminiscent of this situation. Williams was, and still remains, a strong Black father who refused to back down or stand aside when his daughters were mistreated or slighted, no matter if an individual or organization stood in his path.
LaVar's oldest son is Lonzo Ball, currently a promising rookie point guard with the Los Angeles Lakers. The second oldest is LiAngelo Ball, who recently started fall semester at UCLA and will be playing for the Bruins men’s basketball team this fall. Despite the oldest Ball offspring being in the NBA and a second playing for one of the most storied collegiate basketball programs in the nation, LaMelo Ball, the youngest of the three, has been called the best of them all by father LaVar. Up until recently, he was a sophomore at high school at Chino Hills High School in Southern California.
According to rumors, LaVar Ball did not like the basketball coach of Chino Hills High, Dennis Latimore, and decided it was best to remove him from the school.
“I’m not dealing with the coach over there,” LaVar Ball told ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, referring to Chino Hills. “I’m not dealing with the administration over there. I don’t want no distractions on Melo.
“So therefore I’m going to home-school him and make him the best basketball player ever.”
Even though the true catalyst for the move made by Ball was the new coach’s offensive approach, LaVar went on to say that this move would be good for LaMelo because there would be less distractions.
More LaVar: "The coach made a comment the other day. He said, 'all those 50 shots a game, that's going to stop.'
I concur with that particular statement. Right now, high school basketball players all over the nation are getting ready to have what many of them hope will be the best season of their life.
Balancing practice, books, homework, young ladies, parties and the usual teenage shenanigans are natural entanglements that they all are expected to manage. However, when you’re the 7th ranked high school basketball player in the nation, distractions are multiplied and magnified. But when you’re the younger brother of a would-be NBA star, a UCLA basketball player and the son of a verbose, bold and media-savvy father with your own signature shoe and a reality show, those distractions are likely unbearable.
All over the television, sports talking heads are giving their opinions on what Ball, a black man, decides to do with HIS children. Most of the comments are not supportive or even objective. From the moment LaVar Ball began appearing in the national media with increased scrutiny, he has had naysayers. Sanctimonious, judgmental and everything but objective, their words seem disingenuous.
At this point, LaVar Ball says his youngest son will not play competitive basketball until his AAU team starts back up in the spring and does admit that he isn’t certain how his son’s Baller Brand shoe will change his NCAA eligibility, but we all know that the NCAA isn’t the only game in town. If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years it’s that truly special talent does not go unnoticed no matter where it toils. If LaVar Ball gets his son to handle business, and I have no doubt that he will, it’s almost certain that LaMelo’s career arc will go unaltered, and it’s also certain that the haters will find something else to hate on.