In 2017, back when LaVar Ball was in full carnival-barker mode, back before he saw two of his sons selected in the top three of the NBA draft, back before Big Baller Brand was launched and then went mostly bust, the patriarch of the Ball family sat down with USA Today and said the following.
Jordan is, of course, a Hall of Fame player who won five NBA MVPs and six NBA championships with the Chicago Bulls. Many consider him the greatest player of all time.
LaVar averaged 2.2 points and 2.3 rebounds in one season as a reserve forward for the Washington State Cougars.
The comment was laughable, yet entertaining.
LaVar Ball back then had a dream of placing his three sons in the NBA and then building a family business (his shoe and apparel company) around them.
He would say anything to get attention. Nothing was too outlandish.
Even claiming he’d crush MJ in a game of middle-aged ball. He even told Jimmy Kimmel that Jordan would “cry” if they ever played.
“I would just back [Jordan] in and lift him off the ground and call a foul every time he fouls me when I do a jump hook to the right or the left,” LaVar said. “He cannot stop me one-on-one. He better make every shot because 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.”
Well, maybe now we finally get to find out.
On Thursday, Michael Jordan and the Charlotte Hornets selected Ball’s youngest son, LaMelo, third overall in the NBA draft. It was the same draft spot in which Jordan was selected by the Bulls in 1984.
LaVar and His Airness will now be spending plenty of time in the same vicinity, so maybe a charity one-on-one can be arranged so this can be “settled” once and for all.
“You got to understand the source,” Jordan told Slam in 2017. “I think he played college, maybe? He averaged 2.2 points a game. Really? It doesn't deserve a response, but I’mma give it to you because you asked the question.
“I don’t think he could beat me if I was one-legged.”
Oh, this ought to be entertaining, and that’s before LaMelo leads the Hornets on some fast break and lobs an alley-oop to Miles Bridges or some other youthful athlete who dots the Hornets’ roster. Say this for Charlotte, it may not win a million games this year, but it won’t be boring. This team can soar.
“It’s going to be exciting,” LaMelo said. “[We have] high flyers who can get out and go. We have a young team. I love getting up and down, it definitely fits.”
This all should fit. LaMelo may be the best player in the draft, a 6-foot-7, 19-year-old point guard who spent last year toiling in Australia’s National Basketball League. He credits that experience with teaching him everything from the pick-and-roll and how to handle defenders far older and stronger to simply living on his own and outside his comfort level.
And say this for LaVar: He’s now the only dad ever to have two sons selected in the top five, let alone top three, of the NBA draft. Lonzo Ball went second overall to the Los Angeles Lakers in 2017 and is now with New Orleans and Zion Williamson.
Prior to that, the family record went to the Short brothers of Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Eugene was picked ninth overall in 1975 and younger brother Purvis went fifth in 1978.
LaVar burst onto the scene claiming his family would impose a mini-takeover of the NBA. Well, here it is. Middle son LiAngelo spent time last year in the G League as a practice player. That doesn’t just happen due to genetics. There is some parenting there.
LaVar seems to have settled down publicly. At least for now. The reality show (“Ball in the Family”) is over. The ridiculous comments have gone quiet.
Maybe he’s trying a softer approach to getting the Big Baller Brand going. His shoes were overpriced and his ambition oversized, but at the core, it was an admirable idea.
Why should Nike or Adidas get everything? A family outfit from California trying to carve out a niche of a lucrative market would have been worth rooting for if LaVar had found a way to keep everything on rails.
With two sons established in the league, both looking and sounding like mature players who are here to stay, he doesn’t need the old act.
Just let LaMelo do the talking.
“Man, a real blessing for real,” LaMelo said when asked what it was like having Jordan pick him. “I don’t have any words to say. I’m just blessed right now.”
In the end, the Ball family is more than blessed. It’s time to show it on the court, not say it in the media. If LaVar lets his kids do that, then everything will probably turn out fine.
Unless Jordan still wants to settle this. Then who knows what kind of beating is coming.
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