[This post will be the first of two about the conundrum that is LaVar Ball. The first one is about his relationships with his children (Lonzo, LiAngelo, LaMelo) and their futures. The second is about LaVar in a broader sense, with a particular focus on apparent the cultural impact of his actions.]
LaVar Ball has drawn a lot of criticism recently, specifically in regards to his antics. The patriarch of the Ball family has been a fixture on the sports talk show circuit promoting his children, particularly current NBA Draft prospect Lonzo. While I’m not a fan of criticizing parenting techniques, there is something that rubs me the wrong way.
LaVar has gone on record saying that he has been training his boys for the NBA since they were born. There is a long line of what I call overinvolved parents in entertainment and sports. Kris Kardashian has turned her family into a billion-dollar conglomerate and Richard Williams succeeded in using tennis to get his girls, Venus and Serena, out of Compton. However, for every success there is a flaming failure.
In regards to the failures, Todd Marinovich immediately comes to mind. Per a 1988 Sports Illustrated article, “When he went to birthday parties as a kid, he would take his own cake and ice cream to avoid sugar and refined white flour.” His father, Marv Marinovich was a former NFL player and was considered a innovative strength and conditioning trainer. As such, he made it his sole goal to shape his son into a NFL Hall of Fame caliber Quarterback. Todd was called “Robo Quarterback” and labeled “the first test tube athlete.” Unfortunately for Todd and his father, the younger Marinovich began using drugs and lasted two years in the NFL. Since then, he’s been in and out of jails and rehabilitation facilities. I’m not in any way implying that the Ball children will become addicts, however I think that the increased pressure and attention increases the likelihood that the kids burnout.
Personally, I have seen involved dads and the impact it has on their children. For example, two of my friends, Mark and John* had dads that were very involved in their sports careers. The goal for both was college football, then ideally the NFL. In one instance, Mar was the youngest in a line of football players. He has a brother who played Wide Receiver at Oklahoma State and recently declared for the draft. Mark was the MVP of our high school district and is currently on a college roster. He has the potential and talent to be an NFL player. On the other end of the spectrum is John. His dad pushed him to participate in sports, but ultimately it seems like his passion to play died. He was a part time starter on the varsity team. I believe John lost his desire to play because the game stopped being fun. He currently doesn’t have the best relationship with his dad. Despite the success of Mark and his brothers, they don’t deal to much with their father either.
I don’t wish failure on anyone. But when grooming a child for success in such a highly competitive field, there is an increased probability of failure. The lofty expectations don’t help either. Mr. Ball has ridiculously stated that Lonzo is better than reigning two-time NBA MVP Steph Curry. Those comparisons weigh a lot on a person, especially a 19-year-old teenager.
I know a lot of people want the Ball children to fail as a way of punishing their father, but I’m rooting for them anyway. I want them to succeed despite the media circus their father has created. I just hope their success doesn’t come at the expense of their sanity.
*Names have been changed
Lets be great.