After coaching for 35 years, I can attest that a player’s parents are his biggest supporters (I imagine the same holds true for the distaff side but my entire experience was limited to boys). Even for superstars, the odds are against them. Although high school is so far away from the NBA, still, kids – and their parents – dream.
The collective bargaining agreement that was just signed means even the lowest paid NBA player will be a millionaire. Several times over. The problem is that – and these numbers are from years ago but you’ll still get the gist – there are 720,000 high school players, 18,000 college players and 450 NBA players.
Nearly every parent I dealt with during my three-and-a-half decade career thinks his or her kid is better than he really is. Hey, if you’re not going to be the president of your child’s fan club, who do you think is? Youngsters who get cut have parents who are flabbergasted a coach couldn’t see the, if not innate ability, then immense potential, their child has. Similar for the kid who doesn’t play as much, or doesn’t start, or starts but doesn’t get as many shots, or is the focus of the team but isn’t featured enough. These parents are appalled at the lack of respect shown for their child’s skills.
Then there’s LaVar Ball. Last season his three sons played for a high school that went undefeated, won the state championship and averaged over 100 points a game. In a 32 minute game, that’s pretty remarkable. LaVar’s oldest boy, Lonzo, signed with UCLA. If you’ve never seen him play, you’re missing a kid who, barring injury, ought to, not only beat the odds and become one of the aforementioned 450, but have a long and prosperous career – beginning next season because if there was ever a one-and-done, it’s LaVar Ball’s son. At 6’6″ he’s perfect size for a point guard (which is actually his best position) and although is shot is unorthodox, he shoots a good percentage and just might be one of those rare types whose technique, flawed as it may be, is better left alone. There are a score of shooting coaches (not nearly as many as there claim to be) who could remake his shot but, most likely, all of them would agree to simply give him a ton of repetitions and overcome the imperfection.
Lonzo’s shot might not be his biggest obstacle however. Just listen to LaVar and it’s apparent who Lonzo’s biggest fan is as well as, in all likelihood, his biggest impediment. The bravado displayed by his dad has no limits. Bragging doesn’t scratch the surface when discussing Lonzo’s future. For starters, after four games LaVar guaranteed that UCLA would win the NCAA Championship – and not because of Steve Alford’s ability to strategize. That wasn’t nearly strong enough. Last week he said, “I have the utmost confidence in what my boy is doing. He’s better than Steph Curry to me. Put Steph Curry on UCLA’s team right now and put my boy on Golden State and watch what happens.”
Now, did he mean that, if Steph Curry were on the current Bruins’ squad, he wouldn’t be good enough to have than solidly in third place in the Pac-12, behind Oregon and Arizona, where they currently reside? Or that, if Lonzo were with the Warriors they’d not only have the best record in the NBA but, … what? Does he mean that Lonzo would have been the two-time defending MVP (last season unanimous) and Golden State would have won more than 73 out of 81 games last year?
He’s admitted to telling his sons, “Somebody has to be better than Michael Jordan. Why not you?” Michael Jordan? Heck, he might not be the best point guard in his freshman class! Is the elder Ball intent on placing so much pressure on his son that he derails his career before it starts? Or does he feel he knows what buttons to push to get the most out of him? Not too many people would agree with LaVar Ball’s behavior. I, for one, think what he’s doing is beyond excessive.
Yet, the last time we heard a parent speak with such braggadocio about his children, his name was Richard Williams.
“How did his kids turn out anyway?”