Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Saturday, November 18, 2017

Lavar Ball may be a jerk, but he’s not a bad father

There’s a difference between being a bad father and a bad person

Lavar Ball may be a jerk, but he’s not a bad father

Sports are full of polarizing figures, but rarely are any of them related to you by blood. In the case of Los Angeles Lakers’ rookie Lonzo Ball, his dad is exactly that: a big, boisterous, opinionated, attention-seeking, helicopter dad.

But if Lavar Ball is on the helicopter -parent spectrum, consider him on the side closest to blackhawk. As father to one of the world’s most highly touted young basketball players, he’s made it clear that he will be there every step of the way to make sure Lonzo remains at the top.

Many have already expressed their concerns that Lavar is exploiting the fame of his sons Lonzo, Liangelo, and LaMelo to profit his clothing business, appropriately titled Big Baller Brand. Others question his ability as a parent, and whether he has his children’s best interests at heart.

Of course, those concerns are completely unfounded.

To summarize, Lavar raised them to work hard at their basketball skills, helped earn each of them full scholarships to UCLA, set them up with their own brand for life, and on top of all this, he talked his way into making sure Lonzo would be drafted by the team of his dreams. Lonzo even has his own signature shoe (albeit an ugly, overpriced one).

Granted, Lavar is exceptional at setting himself up to look like the bad guy in a whole lot of situations. This past March, for example, he controversially told Fox Sports’ Kristine Leahy to “stay in [her] lane” during an interview with radio host Colin Cowherd. The same phrase is currently featured on much of Lavar’s Big Baller Brand merchandise. On multiple occasions, he’s even insisted the asking price for any of his sons to sign a shoe deal would be well over $1 billion; a number that is not only ridiculous for a rookie, but scared away big brands like Nike and Adidas.

Sure, Lavar is a jerk. Optically, it may seem like he’s riding the wave of his children’s success. After all, he did only average a measly 2.2 points per game in his one season of college basketball. But his kids still love him anyway.

“Thank you for teaching me how to play this game,” Lonzo wrote to his father in The Players’ Tribune. “Thank you for teaching me how to be a man. And thank you for never apologizing for being you.”

Lonzo isn’t worried, he isn’t upset, nor should anyone else be. He knows his own father, but more importantly, he knows him to be a good one. He certainly hasn’t let his father hinder his basketball abilities, having just been named the 2017 Summer League MVP while wearing a different shoe brand in every game.

Just to be clear, Lonzo owes his success to nobody. He’s the one on the court making the prolific passes and long-range shots, not his father. Yet, Lavar is still around, and maybe that’s exactly the point. He’s there, and that’s what matters to Lonzo and his brothers.

“I know there are a lot of kids who aren’t lucky enough to have a father figure in their lives,” he wrote. “That’s a really tough obstacle to overcome.”

Fortunately, it was never one the Ball family had to face. While it may be easy to read Lavar’s public antics as an insight into his parenthood, it’s also equally erroneous. To judge a man’s personality is one thing, but to use the same scale to grade his performance as a father is another.

If setting your family up for years (if not generations) of success makes for a bad parent, our world is unfortunately full of them. While Lavar might be outlandish and oftentimes inappropriate in his comments, he is by most measures an extremely supportive father.

And in the eyes of his sons, that’s all they ever really needed.

cwhitbeck@theeagleonline.com


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