Most of us would prefer that Ball, a 49-year-old Black man from South Central, Los Angeles, sit back and admire the fruits of his parental labor as his son, 19-year-old UCLA freshman Lonzo, prepares in all likelihood to be selected among the top three picks in next month’s NBA draft.
But Ball, brash and loud, has gone all Kardashian in the media, seemingly hijacking the moment from his son if we are to believe media accounts. However, Lonzo Ball doesn’t seem all that bothered by his father’s absurd, almost daily, proclamations.
Dad was a mediocre college basketball player who in his only season at Washington State averaged 2.2 points and 2.3 rebounds during the 1987-88 season. However, this did not prevent him from saying he would have destroyed Michael Jordan in a game of one-on-one if they played in their prime. By the way, Jordan averaged 35 points per game for the Bulls the same year. The Internet took this claim all over the world and people treated it like it was news, just as it did when the elder Ball said his son would eventually be a better NBA player than two-time reigning MVP Steph Curry.
This, of course, is all nonsense. That it has turned into “news” says more about us as a society than it does about the father.
LaVar Ball might not even believe this (he probably doesn’t). But if you peel back all the hyperbole, what African American can be mad at this father of three boys who believes so deeply in and is so heavily invested in his children? He prepares their breakfast every day at 5:30 a.m. He has trained them for years. He has invested thousands and thousands of hours in his children – the two younger sons have both won basketball scholarships to UCLA — and, who knows, one day all three could be in the pros.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but of all the criticisms leveled at Black men — from the media and everyone else — none resonates any more loudly than the complaint regarding our presence or lack thereof in the lives of our kids.
Some of the biggest and most legitimate complaints come from within our own ranks.
“Part of the problem in our community, the Black community, we have too many men making too many babies that they don’t want to take care of,” former Mayor Michael Nutter said from the pulpit of Mt. Carmel Baptist Church a few years ago.
LaVar Ball’s actions are open to interpretation, and you are free to be critical of his methodology. Not your cup of tea? Fine. Not mine either. Oftentimes he comes off buffoonish, and at other times he appears to be a case study for the sports father living vicariously through his children.
What is not in question is the shadow he casts over his children as a father — he is omnipresent. And positive outcomes in our children — whether they are realized as NBA players, doctors, lawyers or laborers — are more likely to be realized with an invested father.
Who cares about the attendant theatrics? Ball’s pale in comparison to the simpleton act going on daily in the White House.
So call LaVar Ball what you want. No amount of media scrutiny can truly give an authentic understanding of what’s going on in the man’s head. But the one thing you can never call LaVar Ball is an absentee Black father, dead to his children, and for that alone, I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt.