For many, 2017 has been a groundbreaking year. In the case of Lavar Ball, this rings particularly true. Lavar is the father of three talented sons, LaMelo, LiAngelo and Lonzo Ball. The latter is the starting point guard for the Los Angeles Lakers, who was named the NBA summer league MVP and is the youngest basketball player to post a triple-double. If that’s not enough, in collaboration with his sons, Lavar created a multi-million dollar shoe company named ‘Big Baller Brand’. Infamously known for selling Lonzo’s debut signature shoe for a starting price of $495!

Above: Lonzo Ball’s signature debut shoe, Big Baller Brand Lonzo Ball ZO2.

Despite these feats, he has unfortunately received some bad press. Nancy Armour of the USA Today labeled Lavar Ball as “the worst sports parent in history”. The Cleveland Cavaliers forward, Channing Fyre suggested that due to Lavar’s boisterous antics, it makes it “disgustingly easy to hate” on Lonzo. Just for the record, Nancy and Channing are chatting s***t.

In my view, such statements are outlandish and unsubstantiated. Indeed, Lavar Ball is a ‘larger-than-life’ character. His appearance on WWE Raw proved that. Also, statements about his ability to beat Michael Jordan 1-on-1, doesn’t help with boosting the public’s perception of him.

 

LaVar vs. Marcellus Wiley on ESPN’s SportNation. (source: ESPN) 

However, there is a long history of people criticising black fathers devoted to their children. For years, Richard Williams, Serena and Venus’s father was called out for his overbearing presence that so was unconducive, it only created one the greatest athletes of all time. Disagree? Name a single player, male or female, who has dominated a sport at the highest level for 17 years. Likewise, Earl Woods was criticized for hawking over Tiger Woods. Yet we saw what happened to Tiger after his father’s passing.

The common denominator between all these fathers is a deep-seated love for their children. Love or hate him, what cannot be disputed is Lavar’s display of confidence in his family. Personally, this is so refreshing to see.

“Just a quiet kid who keeps his head down and works hard to be the best he possibly can be.” – Ball’s statement about his eldest son Lonzo

We are in an era where ‘high-school sensations’ amass millions of views on youtube but unfortunately fail to transform that into an NBA draft spot. The likes of Aquille Carr and Seventh Woods come to mind when I think of crazy-talented high-school players, who unfortunately failed to make the transition to the league. Therefore, Lonzo’s development from college (be it one year spent at UCLA) to the NBA, is thus far quite impressive. Of which his father should be credited for. 

Nowadays, the big dogs such as Nike and Adidas have each established a monopoly of NBA talent. Rewind to 2014, the top NBA draft pick Andrew Wiggins was reported to have signed a 10-year deal with Adidas worth up to $180 million. This year’s top pick Markelle Fultz has signed a multi-year deal with Nike.

Such companies have profited substantially from the image of black athletes, but have failed to address an ongoing diversity issue at the top tier of their organisations. This has spurred the creation of businesses like Fenty Beauty. It is also at the heart of the debate on whether NCAA athletes should be paid. In relation to college basketball, there is a particularly strong case. African-Americans make up the majority in NCAA Division I Men and Women’s basketball, which happens to be two of the three top revenue-generating college sports. In 2017, the NCAA men’s basketball tournament generated $1 billion in television-ad revenue alone. LaVar’s creation of an independent sports brand that has managed to gather large media attention, attempts to defy this trend. His willingness to deviate from the norm and ensure that he and his family reap all the economic benefits from their talents is nothing less than admirable.

In years to come, we could be talking about how the Ball brothers became some of the biggest superstars in the sport. Only time will tell. As for now, LaVar continues to exhibit many positive traits of a supporting father. In direct response to Nancy’s comments, I think it’s fitting to label LaVar as ‘Sports Father of the year’.