LaVar Ball envisions himself the patriarch of the most prominent family in basketball. He believes his word on all things should be the last. He loves sticking his nose into places it doesn’t belong.
For some reason. ESPN continues to endorse his pomposity by giving him airtime. It gave Ball two more forums this week and he used both of them to reinforce his image as an arrogant, tasteless blowhard.
We’ll start with the second one. Ball was invited to appear on ESPN’s “First Take” show on Monday and soon found himself wrapped up in conversation with host Molly Qerim Rose.
At one point in the interview, Rose told Ball she wanted to “switch gears,” meaning she wanted to move onto another topic.
This is how Ball responded: “You can switch gears with me anytime.”
Now, you can think this was harmless banter, that Ball was trying to make a joke. Perhaps he was. But Rose did not sense that was the case.
She immediately told Ball to “stay focused” for which she was praised by many journalists around the nation.
Jemele Hill, the fomer ESPN anchor, tweeted this: “Kudos to Molly Querim for the professional way she handled LaVar Ball after his inappropriate comment. Maybe ESPN will have finally learned its lesson about putting him on TV.”
Don’t think that’s going to happen anytime soon.
The root of Ball’s popularity – we’ll call it infamy – can be traced to ESPN’s early infatuation with him based on the talent of his three hooping sons. Another of the network’s former reporters, Jeff Goodman, apologized on Twitter for his involvement in helping turn Ball into a media magnet.
“I apologize to everyone for getting him on TV years ago,” Goodman said. “Never ever thought it would get to the point it did (and has) or would never have done so.”
ESPN immediately recoiled after Ball’s comment, issuing a statement that made it clear the network thought Ball was inappropriate and that it had told him so.
Now let’s tackle Ball’s other self-indulgent dive.
His son, Lonzo, was a part of the major deal over the weekend that sent Anthony Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans to the Los Angles Lakers. Lonzo was one of three players the Lakers shipped out.
Once LaVar Ball heard about the deal he, of course, felt as though he needed to comment about it. And once again it was ESPN who gave him the chance.
“I guarantee: Like I say again, it will be the worst move the Lakers ever did in their life and they will never win another championship,” Ball told ESPN over the weekend while watching his son, LaMelo, play in a tournament on Saturday. “Guarantee it.
“They’re going to regret it. I’m going to have fun with it. Because I told you all, it was crashing down. Now [the Lakers] completely crashed, but at least my son got off the boat before the thing exploded. I gave them a chance. You can rewind it and go back. I said if you get the three Ball brothers, you can survive this. You let him go, oh, it’s going to be a cold day in hell. Trust and believe that.”
What an idiot.
Lonzo was at the same event with his father, but declined to answer any questions about the deal.
Remember, LaVar told ESPN (are you sensing a trend) in February that he didn’t want the Lakers to put Lonzo into any deal with New Orleans. He even suggested they trade him to Phoenix.
“Lonzo (the second overall pick in 2017) don’t care about no trade,” LaVar said. “He just wants to play. So his main thing is, ‘As long as my foot keeps getting better, I’ll play for anybody.'”
Even though Magic Johnson predicted Ball’s No. 2 would hang from the rafters of the Staples Center, his two years with the Lakers were injury-filled and hardly spectacular. Ball averaged 10 points, 6.4 assists and 6.2 rebounds while shooting 38 percent from the field and just 43.7 percent from the free throw line in 99 games for the Lakers.
“What do I think went wrong? I know what went wrong,” LaVar said. “The coaching was the beginning. When I didn’t see [former Lakers coach Luke Walton] believe in Lonzo and start taking him out after five or six minutes and put him back in and not starting the fourth quarter, he ain’t never played like that. … Now you don’t let him win. You get these raggedy-ass trainers who got him training with these rubber bands — guess what, you’re going to get hurt.”
LaVar also speculated Lonzo will be the guy who helps turn Zion Williamson into a professional after the Pelicans take him No. 1 overall on Thursday.
“Lonzo could be with Sara Lee, and she gonna be good,” LaVar said. “Lonzo with anybody. Lonzo going to groom him, letting him know that when you get open, you’re going to get the ball. He’s going to make him so much better than what everybody’s thinking. So everybody doubting him and saying, ‘You know what? You don’t have these post moves. You’re not polished, just a good runner and athletic,’ Lonzo will fine-tune him.”
The bottom line is ESPN has no right to be upset with LaVar Ball because they helped create him. Either they stop putting him on their air or they learn to deal with what he says and how he says it.