Insufferable blowhard or marketing genius who’s subverting the dominant paradigm with his outlandish claims and $500 shoes?
This is what the sports internet has debated ad nauseam for months about LaVar Ball, the most famous father in basketball.
Now the dad of top Lakers draft pick Lonzo Ball has finally admitted what so many have suspected all along.
If you’re just catching up: Lonzo was a star for one year at UCLA before being drafted second overall by the Lakers last month.
Toward the end of his single season at UCLA, LaVar started making an escalating series of outlandish claims and provocative statements. That Lonzo is already better than Steph Curry; that he, LaVar, a fringe college basketball player, could have beaten Michael Jordan back in his day; that LeBron James’ sons won’t ever amount to much; et cetera and so forth.
Predictably, and like with a certain outlandish presidential candidate last fall, the media couldn’t resist. LaVar got mountains of free publicity, all while sporting gear representing the Big Baller Brand, his family’s apparel venture and the company producing Lonzo’s $500 signature shoe.
Now comes the big reveal.
In a piece published Friday, ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne detailed the Lakers’ research on Ball before drafting him. In that piece, former Lakers superstar and current president of basketball operations Magic Johnson shares an interesting conversation between him and LaVar.
“He just said it’s marketing,” Johnson tells Shelburne of a conversation he and LaVar had before the draft. “That’s what he had to do to market not only his son but the brand. Before I met him I had already thought that. I already knew what he was doing.”
So there it is, for those who were still unsure: LaVar has been playing the media and public all along, in a bid to chart a different course than the typical athlete endorser’s playbook of signing for millions to help a Nike or Adidas make billions.
As annoying as LaVar’s act can be, it’s hard not to respect and appreciate his self-determining approach. We don’t know how well the plan is or isn’t working in terms of dollars and cents, but LaVar has succeeded at making himself and his clothing brand household names in the sports world in the span of just a few short months.
That, any way you slice it, is a pretty baller move.