I have been a casual NBA watcher at best since Jordan retired. It’s not because I was a fan of Jordan- my Detroit roots strictly prohibit a full on embrace of the Chicago icon and undisputed G.O.A.T. I just hadn’t been moved by anything on a personal level since those days. But I know who’s good and who’s making things happen and I’ll catch a few playoff games here and there with my sons to mark the beginning of their summer vacation. But when Jordan’s Bulls toppled Isiah Thomas’ Pistons and then went on to rule the league against some really great teams led by Magic, Barkley, Clyde “The Glide” Drexler, Patrick Ewing and Karl “The Mailman” Malone I was all in.
The personalities got a little less defined after these guys cycled out so I pretty much tuned out.
About a year ago I started hearing noises from the NBA world that I hadn’t ever heard before so my ears perked up. The name Levar Ball started popping up all the time and I think I may have heard his name almost as much as LeBron James or Steph Curry. I never heard of this guy before and wondered why he was getting so much attention.
Turns out Levar Ball never played basketball on a high level but he has three sons that do. The eldest is now a rookie point guard with the Los Angeles Lakers, the second son was at UCLA before being suspended from the team for being arrested for shoplifting on a team trip to China, and a third son is a big time high school prospect. So Levar is famous for being a father to these young men.
Unfortunately, he is most famous for generating a lot of noise in the media about his sons Lonzo, LiMelo and LiAngelo. Levar is a shameless self-promoter and he uses his sons’ basketball platform to magnify himself and the sports apparel line that he has created, Big Baller Brand. He puts a lot of pressure on his sons and is merciless in piling it on. Levar makes outlandish claims like he (or his sons) can beat Michael Jordan in one on one basketball and criticizes his son’s coaches in the media- always stirring up controversy. His sons are targets every time they step on the court and now maybe even on the street. It is pretty fair to describe Levar as a loudmouthed asshole. And I do.
But looking at the whole picture, I’m not sure that really matters- especially in a world where boorish behavior is rewarded constantly. The election of Donald Trump proves that our social standards and our code of conduct have changed and being an asshole can really pay off. And taking that into account, I have to acknowledge that Ball’s sons are what they are because of his guidance and direction. Obviously whatever athletic ability he had was enough to make his sons stand out from their peers.
It had to have taken a ton of hard work and consistency for this guy to bring THREE sons into the limelight of the basketball world. I don’t know anything about his style of discipline but the last time we had a black father THIS plugged into his sons, we wound up with the Jackson 5 and we all love how that turned out.
Earl Woods just had Tiger but I’d be remiss not to give him his props in this discussion. And yes, Richard Williams had daughters and not sons so we can debate if his work was easier or harder- but one thing we can’t debate is the impact and he literally did twice the work with his girls on a landscape that was twice as perilous.
Even though none of these fathers were as big an asshole as Levar Ball is, they were not exactly popular amongst their peers either. Levar is the type of guy you just want to find the mute button on or wish you could photo-shop him out of a room. But like him or not, if more men put the kind of time and effort and energy and dedication into their sons that he has we’d be a lot better off.
Sure it gets old seeing black folks crushing it in the world of athletics and entertainment to the exclusion of all other things but excellence is excellence and it is to be promoted wherever you can make it happen.
So as 2017 winds down, I’m casting my vote for Levar Ball for Father of the Year.