Story and Photos by Randy Whetstone Jr.
If you Google the name LaVar Ball, you’ll find that he may be close to cementing himself on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The loud, outspoken and at times provocative father of the Ball brothers – Lonzo, LaMelo and LiAngelo – has earned the right to the titles ‘media personality’ and even ‘celebrity’ according to the Bleacher Report.
It’s all due in large part to his outlandish statements about his sons and their basketball future. Here are just a few:
“A billion dollars, it has to be there. That’s our number, a billion, straight out of the gate. And you don’t even have to give it to me all up front. Give us $100 mil over 10 years.” — March 2017
“I’ll tell you right now, he (Lonzo Ball) is better than Steph Curry to me.” — February 2017
“To me ‘Zo is the best player in the world… I don’t know if he can beat (LeBron James and Russell Westbrook) one on one, but I know he can beat them 5 on 5.” — March 2017
“Back in my heyday, I would kill Michael Jordan one-on-one.” — March 2017
Back in March, many people quickly grew tired of hearing about him, but now that they’ve witnessed the incredible display of basketball talent from his three sons, many are eager to see how great the Ball brothers can be. But as far as saying the greatest of all time, Michael Jordan, would be annihilated – LaVar should probably just stick to trash talking.
LaVar may be a believer that words speak louder than actions since some of his words have come to fruition. He once boldly said that his son Lonzo would only play for the Lakers, and Lonzo then became the second overall pick by the Los Angeles Lakers in this year’s NBA Draft. By causing such a commotion, LaVar has also brought more awareness to his founding company, the Big Baller Brand.
While he and his sons market shoes, clothes apparel and his Big Ballers AAU team, perhaps he has become that prophetic voice that can take AAU brands all across the nation to the next tier.
Derrance Lawson, an assistant coach at J-Town High School and head coach of the 2020 Louisville Legends team, believes Ball’s voice indeed brings more awareness to AAU brands around the country.
“People who have been around will tell you this ain’t anything new,” says Lawson about Ball. “Now that he has sons who are of college and pro age, that spotlight is there. People have been pushing their (AAU) program for years. There are other guys who run their program and they are doing the same thing he is doing, but they are not producing Lonzo Balls. They might have a Lonzo Ball throughout the history of the program, but it’s not their own brand. LaVar is all Big Baller. It is not a shoe company; it is all him. That is the beauty of it. It’s beyond basketball, and people are starting to understand the business aspect. He has the product and he has the kids, and they all just happen to belong to him. They are his sons, it is his mouth and it is their brand – it’s a trifecta.”
If Kentucky programs can provide a product with players and other attractive components, it elevates their brand and opens the eyes of college coaches, players and even parents. Lawson says it is something much needed for players coming out of the state of Kentucky as they compete at a higher level against athletes in Virginia, Missouri, Indiana and Tennessee.
Being a Louisville Legend product himself, Lawson envisions his program growing and becoming a “flagship” in a circuit in the coming years.
“What separates our program from everybody else is that we do the best job of developing kids and their talent,” he says. “I see us being a flagship member of somebody’s circuit. It is all about getting the kids the best opportunities and getting them around the best competition around. So that’s the vision, to be a solidified member of a circuit, whether it’s Nike, adidas or Under Armor. I do believe – from 2019 down – we’re on the cusp of producing Division I talent.”
Despite the publicity Ball has created, whether good or bad, he seems to bring more recognition to an already established novelty – brand awareness. It may be something that AAU coaches, high school coaches and even college coaches adopt as they continue to bring their programs and products to the forefront of the nation. VT