Love him or loathe him, LaVar Ball is here to stay. However, it’s how we rose to power that interests me the most. It seems we’ve been here before.
The lessons of history, it has been said, are doomed to repeat on those who do not learn from it. In that instance, we’re all guilty. Because we let it happen again. I’m talking about the rise of ubermensch/drunk uncle at the NBA’s cookout, LaVar Ball.
The familiarities of this rise only became apparent after it was too late.
For those who have somehow missed out on this moronic phenomenon, LaVar Ball is the father to three improbably monikered, probable NBA prospects: LaMelo, LiAngelo, and Lonzo. The latter being the newly minted point guard/demigod of the crumbling Mount Olympus that is the Los Angeles Lakers franchise. Prior to his eldest progeny being selected #2, LaVar reduced himself to the status of a memelord, claiming that he could topple the G.O.A.T in his prime and picking on Michael’s subordinate (and churro enthusiast) Charles Barkley.
And normally, you should never go full bozo, but his indefatigable devotion to complete bullshit has promoted his brand (products) and his brand (his sons) brilliantly. People gave him the attention, because they wanted to see him fail. The sensible basketballing fandom, such as yours truly, (which is why I support the Knicks), shuffled away from that mantra, steeling themselves with the notion that if we ignore LaVar, he’d eventually go away. However, when I saw him traipse down the gangplank of a frankly moronic WWE match after the draft, I knew I had seen it somewhere else.
LaVar is the Trump of the NBA.
Compare the pair. Two recalcitrant irresistible forces of negative energy, salting the impeccably manicured front lawns of the establishment, burning their insignia into it, steadfastly refusing to put their pants back on, completely unwilling to listen to sense or logic. To both of them, the ends always justify the means and chaos is the platform. The vituperative criticism they hear merely just emboldens them both to be more … them. While Ball’s brand is “The Big Balla Brand,” Trump’s is “Make America Great Again,” they both promote America and they both use another American institution to promote it – the baseball cap.
Clearly, the world is a stage for both and, sadly, the din of the box office will continue to see their names on the marquee.
Let’s dig a smidge deeper. There are further clues that LaVar is running the Pick and Roll from Trump’s playbook. Let’s step back to the beginning, when both characters entered the collective consciousness. For Donald, it was him announcing his run for the Presidency and promptly stating that the Mexicans were the only thing that would stop him from greatness; likewise, with LaVar, he claimed that immortality was his and, due to the greatness of his offspring, the greatest ain’t no thing. This sort of preordained hubris to push themselves works as well as it does in sports as it does politics. To be perfectly frank, in America, there is little difference. People may not vote, but they’ll certainly pay for season tickets. Allegiance to any one party is rare, but supporting your alma mater in sports you absolutely didn’t play, those bonds are woven in ropes of sheepskin and diamond.
Back to the duo in question. Beyond inflammatory baseless statements purely to gain headlines (LaVar sledged the dead mother of an NBA star and pick whichever you like with Trump), the marketing of the self is obvious, and obviously seeing results, as evidenced by the bean counters at Google.
Now, obviously, the peak insanity above represents the nadir of their Randian verve, with Trump becoming President and Ball entering the NBA. Clearly, the world is a stage for both and, sadly, the din of the box office will continue to see their names on the marquee.
However, Ball’s devotion to The Art of the Deal is commendable and eerie as, much like Trump, the public has a victim to feel sorry for. As Donald has Melania, LaVar has Lonzo. They’re both imprisoned by family, both closest to the epicenter of white noise—seldom asked, seldom respected. They’re forever there, but somehow forever not. You could see this on the night of the draft. It should have been Lonzo’s night. He played for UCLA, he impressed the Lakers, he climbed Everest. To be perfectly frank, he’d have done it without the branding, much like the other 29 players in the first round. Sadly, it seems that night became another “LaVar” night and he’d have to ride the back seat once more.
Much like Melania’s cold shoulder to Donald, Lonzo’s rejection of pa was equally subtle. The footage lies below. This was the moment that young Lonzo had worked towards, the greatest of dreams have come to pass. What we received at the 2:54 mark was the hollowest of hugs and the most unrehearsed of handshakes, not a moment of true father/son bonding, rather a manager/employee vibe permeated, as the boss wondered if hugging the staff would be inappropriate. Another strange thing to notice was the rest of the Ball family had an ornate and completely different celebratory handshake to ring in this golden moment:
Maybe I’m reading too much into it. However, there is another parallel. Much like Melania, Lonzo will now have to enter a profession and attempt to be taken seriously, something which will be difficult to do as the entirety of that profession wants to cut you down as a means to get back at the original sins of “him.”