Keeping watch over student news at East Leyden High School
Lonzo Ball wearing a shirt that has him pictured as “the face” of the NBA.

Lonzo Ball wearing a shirt that has him pictured as “the face” of the NBA.

Lonzo Ball wearing a shirt that has him pictured as “the face” of the NBA.

…Platforms for Publicity

Basketball fans are familiar with three talented brothers: Lonzo, LiAngelo, and LaMelo Ball. But the most famous member of this family might be their father Lavar, the outspoken patriarch. Because Lavar Ball has continued to make decisions for his three sons and has said many outrageous statements in interviews, the Ball name has skyrocketed in media mentions. And that is obviously Lavar’s purpose. Whether or not that strategy is respectable, it is a matter of debate for some fans.

Lavar Ball is a former professional football player who played for the New York Jets and Carolina Panthers. Even though he played professional football, he believes that he can beat arguably the greatest basketball player in history: Michael Jordan. Ball said, “He cannot stop me one-on-one. He better make every shot ’cause he can’t go around me. He’s not fast enough. And he can only make so many shots outside before I make every bucket under the rim.” Lavar played college basketball at Washington State where he averaged 2.2 points per game in the 1987-88 season. Michael Jordan averaged 35 points per game that same year in the NBA.

Jonathan Ildfonso,  a resident of Rosemont, said, “There is no way Lavar could beat Jordan in a one on one match. Lavar was a bench player in college.” Ball knew that if he said something of that nature, people would be saying his name and he would get the publicity he wanted. The outspoken father also made the statement that his son Lonzo is better than Stephen Curry. Curry was the first player in NBA history to be unanimously voted most valuable player of the league.  Lonzo, while talented and drafted 2nd overall by the Los Angeles Lakers, is currently a rookie point guard.

But Lavar Ball realizes that the more outrageous things he says, the more people talk about him. The more his name is spoken, the more publicity he gets for his sons, including middle brother LiAngelo who will look to continue the family name while wearing number three for the UCLA Bruins this season and youngest son LaMelo, who will NOT be playing at Chino Hills High this year.

Lavar made headlines when he announced on October 2 that he was pulling LaMelo from the school in order for him to focus on his training. Lavar explained his action: “I’m not dealing with the coach over there. I’m not dealing with the administration over there. I don’t want no distractions on Melo. So therefore I’m going to homeschool him and make him the best basketball player ever.” This decision came after Chino Hills’ principal Isabel Brenes and head coach Dennis Latimore refused to put four players on varsity at the request of Lavar.

Kyle Bailey responded to these actions: “[The coaches] are showing that they are not gonna listen to a dad on the sidelines and they will coach the way want to coach by doing things their way.” He continued, “It’s a bad idea for LaMelo. Lavar should be teaching his son that there is more in life than just basketball but he is doing the opposite of that.”

There is more than basketball and arrogance in Lavar’s decision for LeMelo. It’s setting up an interesting conflict that might bring the longstanding debate about whether NCAA players can earn money for their talents. Fans will not be able to watch LaMelo in organized competition in high school until he hits the floor with his AAU travel team, Big Ballers, in the spring of 2018. LaMelo became the first high school basketball player have their own signature shoe, the MB1’s. Because of his signature shoe, he might not be able to play NCAA basketball. Article 12 of the NCAA Division I Manual dictates that “an individual loses amateur status and thus shall not be eligible for intercollegiate competition in a particular sport if the individual (a) uses his or her athletics skill (directly or indirectly) for pay in any form in that sport; [or] (b) accepts a promise of pay even if such pay is to be received following completion of intercollegiate athletics participation.” Attention and arguments have stirred from the shoe. LaMelo may have to travel overseas if he is not able to play at UCLA. It will be interesting to see how important college basketball is to Lavar considering he pulled LaMelo out of high school.

“He’s getting their name out there. Whether you love or hate him, he is still getting money from his brand. He’s getting everyone talking about him,” said Mike Sansone, an avid Lavar Ball fan. Lavar has changed the game in marketing. He’s taking the route where all publicity is good publicity.

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