High School Sports

Is father of the UCLA star becoming the wrong kind of celebrity dad?

UCLA guard Lonzo Ball (right) visits with his father LaVar following a college basketball game against Washington State this month in Los Angeles.
UCLA guard Lonzo Ball (right) visits with his father LaVar following a college basketball game against Washington State this month in Los Angeles. AP

There might never have been a sports dad quite like LaVar Ball.

He has made himself into a national name by talking up his sons.

Ball’s three sons are spectacularly talented. UCLA freshman Lonzo Ball is projected to be a top 3 NBA lottery pick in June’s draft. He’s a big reason the Bruins are favorites to make the NCAA Final Four. LaVar’s two younger sons are stars at national power Chino Hills (Calif.) High -- LiAngelo, a senior, and sophomore LaMelo. LaMelo, you might recall, drew national headlines for scoring 92 points in a 32-minute high school game while playing very little defense.

LaVar famously trains his sons and brags prodigiously about their abilities. He said Lonzo would be better than Golden State Warriors All-Star Stephen Curry, for example. TNT basketball analyst Charles Barkley took exception to that.

“You can’t say a guy is going to be better than Steph Curry, a guy who has played 30 college games,” Barkley said. “I know you can be proud of your son, but at some point it becomes stupidity.”

Well, LaVar -- whose #LavarBallSays social media hashtag frequently gets trending -- isn’t close to being done.

LaVar said Lonzo would turn the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers into a playoff team, instantly, if the Lakers get the No. 1 pick in the draft and take his son. LaVar also said he would’ve “carved up” Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan in a game of 1-on-1 -- back when Jordan was an All-Star with the Chicago Bulls.

“Back in my heyday,” said LaVar, who played college basketball at Washington State for one season in 1987-88 and averaged 2.2 points, “ I would kill Michael Jordan one-on-one.”

And finally, just this week, LaVar said if one of the major shoe companies wants to sign Lonzo to a deal when he turns pro, it will have to agree to sign all three boys - for $1 billion dollars. The New York Post pointed out that the 2016 No. 1 pick, Ben Simmons, signed a five-year deal with Nike worth somewhere between $12 million and $20 million and received another $20 million in performance bonuses.

“It means,” the Post wrote, “LaVar reckons his eldest son is worth roughly eight times more than the injured 76ers star, and his sons have a cumulative value of 25 Simmonses.”

Well, if LaVar Ball wants himself and his sons to become household names, he’s certainly done that. They were featured on SportsCenter last week. So while at least some of America chuckles at his brash statements and comments, Ball and his boys may end up having the last laugh -- on their way to the bank.

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