“You may not like me. You may think I’m cocky or arrogant. But you will be thinking about me…You and me, we’re gonna do something. You just don’t know it yet.” LaVar Ball.

How many times have you heard that cocksure, braggadocious ultimately empty hooey and taken little or no heed? The piffle which follows is generally inane, bordering on imbecility. Lots of bluff and thunder with little substance to support it.

A real yawner.

An eye-roller of epic proportion.

Carnival barking.


THE GREATEST, Ali was the only one who could see this kind of behavior as saleable and effectively sell it to at first a most dubious public which quickly became an adoring one. Ali was the master of hyperbole but actually the “one in a million” poster boy, in essence the chosen one.

Could there be another, impatiently waiting in the wings? Certainly nobody could ever be Ali but…

LaVar Ball is like Trump.

He talks too much; actually neither one is able to stop talking.

Platitudinal nonsense with virtually no basis in hard fact or truth and each is eminently and intensely dislikable largely due to this unfortunate shared proclivity.

Just be quiet.

Hold your tongue once in a while at least, and think first — before you speak.

Let your brain catch up with your mouth. That’s where the similarity between the two with particular regard to this issue of the-obnoxiously-flapping-tongue ends.

Because Trump will end up hanging himself — pardon me — ’unimpeachably.’ As Hawk Harrelson coined many years ago, “[s]he gone!!”

LaVar Ball on the other hand is hardly gone. He just showed up. He’s here.

And he’s smarter than Trump. Believe it.

Oh, just in.

LaVar Ball’s words were “twisted” by Fox Sports 1’s Kristine Leahy who says in turn that networks should stop putting him on the air “just to get controversial statements.”

When Leahy asked Ball how many pair of ZO2’s — the shoe he designed for #1 son (and projected top-3 draft pick) Lonzo, debuting at $495/pair — he replied, “stay in [your] lane.”

Later, after the self-proclaimed ‘Big Baller’ attacked Leahy’s media colleague Jason Whitlock mocking his size, she asked him, “so you disrespect …people for their weight?”

Ball responded, “If you act like that, guess what? Something’s coming to you.”

Colin Cowherd, host of FS1’s “The Herd,” (the show on which Leahy appears as a co-host and reporter) said in the aftermath of the exchanges that Ball was and is invited onto his program because he drives listeners and attention, despite the fact that [he, Cowherd] “thought [Ball] was a bully.”

Wow. Maybe so.

But is it okay to ask bullying-type questions and then ‘cower’ and whine at the response?

Not if you’re a pro.

The Big Baller is a pro, somebody ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne has described as one who “has figured out how to get — and keep — our attention.”

She expounds. “In less than a year, he’s gone from just another suburban helicopter parent to a household name and wannabe marketing mogul. Big Baller Brand, the shoe and apparel company LaVar founded, has organically generated the kind of publicity for which companies spend millions.”

News cycles first included and then highlighted the BBB phenomenon, building interest and undeniable momentum for the Big Baller.

It surely didn’t hurt that LaVar touted his sons — he and his wife Tina have three and more on Tina later — as a billion-dollar brand in the face of being spurned by the major shoe companies.

As Shelburne points out, … “just wait for the reaction once he starts talking about the documentary and commercials he says his Big Baller Media group is producing, or [the direction and goals of] his sports agency, the Ball Sports Group, that represents Lonzo.”

As Shelburne learned, the senior Ball “speaks it into being.”

She likens the situation to whatever the Kardashian thing is.


And as a former athlete of far more modest repute than Lonzo and his younger sons who are likely to become stars, he knows a little bit first-hand about how it all works.

He doesn’t rely on that knowledge. He relies on some of his life experiences but prefers focusing exclusively on his entrepreneurial vision.

Because he “speaks it into existence.”

And Shelburne likens his “anti-establishment message” to the trending today toward independence in music (Jay Z’s Tidal record-streaming service for instance) and sports (Floyd Mayweather’s Mayweather Promotions).

Ball is all about independence.

“People don’t understand the movement,” he says. “This is a power play to show everybody, ‘Yo, we don’t need you to make this s — -.’”

As he is wont to do, he will simply “keep talking about it until it happens.”

Sonny Vaccaro, one of the sports world’s most charismatic, influential and polarizing figures whose zeal for basketball, advocacy for underprivileged youth and instinct for sales is the stuff of legend, has seen it all in his nearly eighty years which has included storied executive tenures with Nike, Adidas and Reebok.

He knows a thing or two about basketball shoes and the industry but readily concedes that he’s seen nothing like LaVar Ball and his signature m.o.

“I enjoyed the father’s brashness,” he says. “It took a lot of guts to do what he did. And it is hugely possible that in the right situation, this could be one of the greatest stories of all time.

I just wish he’d stopped and thought about it a little longer. Because at $495, you took away the public rooting for you. You allow the public to think other things of who you really are.”

And if LaVar has purposely cast himself as the villain for Lonzo to foil, Vaccaro admits that, “it’s almost the perfect setup. If he just gets off to a good start, Lonzo could be America’s darling. But he almost has to be that…or the game is over.”

We’ve heard little from Lonzo and nothing from his younger brothers LiAngelo and LaMelo; really, who could get a word in edgewise anyway?

But that’s only half of the story.

Tina Ball, every bit the force that is LaVar, had a stroke in late February which hospitalized her for more than two months. She is now in rehab and in time is expected to recover.

Held sacred by LaVar and their three sons, her strength and will are evident in Lonzo who, when asked about her condition at a news conference following UCLA’s first NCAA tournament game, replied, “That’s family business.”

Tutored by LaVar perhaps, but with plenty of Tina inside him.

“I got mad, but you can’t show it,” Lonzo said of being asked to broach the subject in such a public forum. “At a moment like that, you gotta just take it and move on. You can’t do nothing about it.”

Nor can he monitor the words or filter the behavior of his father, but no matter.

“I believe what he says,” Lonzo asserts. “And I’m 100% behind it.”

Vaccaro thinks that “the Lakers are the salvation for him, [Lonzo] and he’s the salvation for the Lakers.”

At this point, only the Celtics who hold the #1 pick in the upcoming draft stand in the way.

We know LaVar is on board and will be opining until the day of reckoning.

And well beyond.

But if Lonzo can play and play well in the NBA, “just you becoming your own person, you know?…filling into your own shoes,” then watch out.

LaVar Ball’s vision, talent and expertise — including the roll-out of $495 opening price-point shoes ($995 sporting Lonzo’s autograph) — is pure genius.

The trainer, like him or not, is a genius.

[Editor’s Note: This piece was written by Mr. Kaplan in May 2017.]

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