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Is LaVar Ball Really Worth a Billi?

There’s a thin line between being a good, supportive parent, and being an obnoxious nuisance. LaVar Ball is currently crossing that line. Ball is the father of three basketball prodigies—UCLA star Lonzo Ball, as well as Chino Hills High School standouts LaMelo and LiAngelo Ball. Some people find it so inspiring that the elder Ball has brought his three sons to the cusp of untold riches that they believe he’s earned the right to say whatever he wants when it comes to one of his boys.

That may be true, but he’s still a nuisance. And his comments haven’t hurt any of his sons yet, though that possibility is definitely there.

The latest of LaVar Ball’s outrageous soundbites came in during an interview with USA Today published earlier today. In it, Ball said he would be demanding a package apparel endorsement deal for his three sons, one that totaled $1 billion in value. “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 million a year,” says the proud dad.

Add that to this list of hits:

• Ball has said that his son Lonzo would only be interested in playing for the Lakers. (He eventually retracted the statement.)

• Ball has said that Lonzo will be better than reigning two-time MVP Stephen Curry.

• Ball has also said that he himself would have “killed” Michael Jordan in a game of one-on-one.

It’s the type of stuff that you might expect from a dad who is watching a dream he hatched two decades ago materialize. That intense feeling of accomplishment shouldn’t be brushed aside, but at what point does the braggadocio begin to diminish its own returns? Lonzo Ball, who will probably be picked 3rd or 4th at the very latest in the upcoming NBA draft, will easily have his pick of the apparel brand litter. If he heeds his dad’s wishes and forces a company to wait until his youngest brother, LaMelo, is eligible to be endorsed in 2020, he could piss off a lot of people who would’ve otherwise been content with making him the richest rookie in the league.

And what about when Lonzo gets to the NBA? Highly-touted rookies already have targets on their backs, why make Lonzo’s larger? Imagine what might happen when the team that drafts him plays the Warriors for the first time next season. If Lonzo doesn’t show out and try to emulate or best Steph, his dad will be seen as a false prophet. If he does appear to be Baby Steph, that’ll be the anecdote that follows him throughout his career.

We haven’t even gotten to LiAngelo and LaMelo yet. LiAngelo will be a standout at UCLA next season. If Lonzo doesn’t immediately turn out to be everything his dad says he is, doesn’t LaVar think an NBA scout will think twice about drafting another Ball? Of course 15-year-old LaMelo is clearly talented, but he is already basket-hanging to pad his stats. That won’t fly with any top-tier college coach, especially not one from a program as prestigious as UCLA’s.

The point here is, LaVar Ball has every right to be proud, and he has every right to push his sons and try to help them engineer wildly successful careers. What he should be careful of, however, is hampering their rise before it even really starts. Just ask Jimmer Fredette what it’s like to be the most talked about guard in the NCAA, only to not be able to sustain an NBA career. Or god forbid, think about happened to Todd Marinovich and his demanding father in the NFL.

None of this is easy, and none of it is guaranteed. All the luck in the world to the Balls, just be careful dad.

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