Ever since UCLA’s standout basketball recruit Lonzo Ball broke into the NCAA scene at the start of the 2016-2017 basketball season there has been constant news coverage of his play. As to be expected he had a successful season leading his team to the Sweet 16 on the NCAA Basketball tournament, but what we didn’t expect in Lonzo’s rise across the country is his father LaVar Ball. LaVar Ball quickly made a name for himself rising from obscurity with his seemingly arrogant and antagonistic remarks about the skill level of his son compared to other college athletes. He also made comments like “ UCLA can’t win with a team of all white players around his son” and claimed his son is better that the reigning NBA MVP Stephen Curry at this same point of his career. He’s even stated that he could beat the legendary Michael Jordon in one-on-one. Yes, that same Michael Jordan that has won a championship on every level of basketball including 6 NBA titles and 2 Olympic gold medals.
As more news media picked up on his comments, we later learned he and his sons had a family clothing brand titled ‘Big Baller Brand’ which is touted to be high end urban athletic wear that is only afforded by “Big Ballers”. LaVar’s latest splash into the 24-hour news cycle came when he sat down with tennis shoe titans Nike, Under Armor, and Adidas about a potential shoe deal for his son. Allegedly the different companies were willing to offer Lonzo Ball a shoe endorsement deal, and LaVar wasn’t interested because he wanted a partnership deal for his son with Lonzo having equity. Within a week of learning about ended negotiations with the major shoe companies, LaVar released his son’s Lonzo ZO2 tennis shoe at a whopping $495 a pair. This was the most egregious act and final straw for many people across social media in regards to LaVar’s apparent lack of self-awareness. As I began to sit back and filter through all of the noise and look at LaVar Ball’s actions I honestly feel we all can stand to learn 3 lessons from LaVar Ball.
1. Be your kids #1 fan.
LaVar has to be Lonzo’s biggest fan. If there isn’t anyone else on this planet that thinks Lonzo can play basketball at the highest level, his dad sure does. LaVar constantly compares his son to NBA greats and their children like LeBron James, Stephen Curry, and Michael Jordan. LaVar believes all his sons are great, so much so that we know their names without seeing much basketball from the two younger ones. LaVar pushes his sons to be great. Whenever we see Lonzo Ball in interviews he doesn’t seem to have a problem with his father antics. He’s even been on record saying that what we see in media is normal and feels no pressure. LaVar takes great pride in pushing his sons hard there seems to be a Joe Jackson-esque quality to him (shout out to my prophyte Trey for that nugget too), but what good parent doesn’t want the best for and out of their children? In a society that’s constantly shouting the false narrative and stereotypical absent black father, here we have the exact opposite: a father that is very engaged, and has been active in his sons’ entire lives. I think we all need to be a Stan for our kids like LaVar.
2.) Be unapologetically you.
One of the greatest qualities I find in LaVar Ball is his attitude. I find his braggadocios, unapologetic, and boisterous personality quite hilarious and endearing. I feel like personality wise he’s me in 15-20 years. He is the embodiment of every black dude that’s ever been in a heated barbershop discussion arguing Lebron vs MJ, the dude that shoots 35x in a YMCA pickup game even though he is trash, or the uncle that lets you know that when you sit down at the domino table that you are getting ready to get treated like a stomach that just had taco bell at 3am after a night of Hennessey. LaVar is passionate about what he believes and says, and will remain the same no matter whom he is talking to. How can you not appreciate that!?!? Being black in America it’s easy to get caught into the tiring cycle of code switching, or constantly being told to subjugate our happiness and accomplishments to acting like “we have been there before”. It’s good to see somebody that looks like me saying” forget that status quo I’m me!” You have 2 choices love it or learn to love it!
3.) Shoot your shot.
I intentionally made this my last point because if you hung on this long then this is the one point I want you to remember. It has been rumored that LaVar’s son Lonzo may have lost 9 million dollars in an endorsement shoe deal because his father wanted co branding and partnership opportunities with the big shoe companies instead of becoming an employee of those companies. Now let’s be clear $9M is nothing to scoff at especially if you’re like me making daily decisions as to whether you’re going to answer the phone like a Mexican man or an old Chinese lady when those Navient/Sallie Mae collectors call looking for last month’s student loan payment. In the grand scheme however, it isn’t a lot of money in the vision of what LaVar sees for his sons. Basic economic principles tells us there’s a lot more money to be made if you’re an owner vs an employee of a company. Instead of reaching a deal with the shoe companies he independently released the ZO2 shoe and no matter how ugly or overpriced his shoe is he receives 100% of the profit. To put into perspective according to Forbes 2015 Jordan Brand made $2.6B in revenue and MJ received $100M from Nike that year to simply put it MJ only made 3.8% of the revenue. Remember although Jordan has his name on the shoe he is still an employee of Nike and not the owner. The interesting thing about Lavar and Lonzo’s shoe is that without one commercial or advertisement we all know what his shoe looks like, and he’s even pre sold an estimated 250 pair! If LaVar and Lonzo can pull this off they will revolutionize basketball shoe deals, and essentially create a trend where more athletes will release independent shoes and reap all the profit.
Nobody has ever done anything great without taking some sort of risk. Yes people will laugh at you if you go off the beaten path, yes people will call you a fool, and yes some relationships will falter, but how much is that book you have been wanting to write for years worth to you? Maybe you have been wanting to start a nonprofit like http://www.booksnbasketball.com, or start your own travel agency like http://www.mealsandmiles.net or even start your own blog like www.exampleplease.com . Why haven’t you shot your shot ?Yes I shamelessly plugged all of my friends and their businesses, and I’m totally unapologetic because they all shot their shot like LaVar and I. Before we laugh at LaVar we can certainly learn from him.
LOVE. Peace. Equality.