There's so much to like about the idea of LaVar Ball that at times it feels like he was created in a Likable Nigga Generator. First, of course, is the fact that he's the very involved Black dad of three star athletes, which contradicts both a stereotype about Black men and a stereotype about Black athletes. He's challenging the major shoe companies; choosing to create and promote his own family's brand instead of pushing his son to sign a standard sponsorship deal. He possesses the type of outspokenness and brashness and bombast that certain types of people often mistake for savvy and sagacity. (Because, they believe, if he's talking so loudly, he must know what he's talking about.) He's an extremely large man, both in person and presence. The type who doesn't just fill out the rooms he enters. He consumes them. And he's unafraid to tell White people about themselves. And by "White people" I mean "White women who work for Fox and the low-hanging punching bag filled with strip club buffet guacamole called 'Jason Whitlock."
Combined, these characteristics create a profile of the perfect iconoclast; someone particularly equipped to disrupt the unseemly relationship between (mostly Black) athletes and the entities — the NCAA, the shoe companies, and the NBA and NFL specifically — taking advantage of their labor. Rooting for him — this big and bad-ass Black father — to succeed isn't just easy, it's practically mandated. The idea of him and what he's doing is so seductive, and feels so right, that it even compels (some of) us to attribute his boasts about beating Michael Jordan and Lebron and Steph Curry to some sort of marketing wizardry.
Complicating things, however, is LaVar Ball himself. And the fact that he's a piece of shit.
The most notable characteristic about shit is that, well, it stinks. Some shit stinks worse than others, but even the sweetest smelling shit still smells like shit. The smell is so pungent and the content so toxic that we created labyrinthic plumbing systems specifically devised to get expelled shit out of our homes as quickly as possible. And when something's odor is that aggressive, there's not much to be done to mask it. If you dropped a gallon of Febreeze on a single log of shit sitting on a carpet, it would just smell like someone dropped a gallon of Febreeze on a log of shit.
The aintshitness of LaVar Ball has been perceptible since he's been a public figure. Some of us have ignored it, of course, because of what we believe he stands for. And some of us are so desperate to see someone stick it to the man and tell White people about themselves that it could literally be a bucket of shit doing it and we'd still say "That three gallon bucket of shit has a great point!" And, well, there are some people who don't see anything wrong at all about what Ball is doing. Because just how game recognizes game, pieces of shit recognize other pieces of shit.
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It became harder to ignore two months ago, when USA Today published a feature on the Chino Hills high school basketball team Ball's two youngest sons attend. In it, Ball was revealed to be the worst type of sports parent — a bully who sabotaged the team's season with his toxicity. The stench came through again when on Fox Sports last week. Regardless of how you feel about Whitlock and Kristine Leahy, that shit just wasn't cool.
And then, last week the shit peaked with a back-and-forth with Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving. It began when Irving appeared as a guest on Uninterrupted's "Road Trippin'" podcast, and spoke on LaVar and Lonzo.
"I’m sorry, LaVar, you’re not going to be in every hotel room that Lonzo is going to be in. You’re not going to be everywhere and part of his life as he continues to grow up. You got to let go. He’s 19-years old. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want it to bypass him being a father, but he’s got to let Lonzo be Lonzo for the long haul."
"I had to have a talk with my dad, and I was just like, 'Man, Dad, I love you, but I’m going to make my own decisions. And he told me, when I turn 18, I’m responsible enough for myself to make my own decisions, and he’s going to be there to help along the way. But when I turned 18, like, I got my first tattoo. I got my ear pierced. I just started doing my own thing."
Kyrie, who has walked the path that Lonzo will soon be on — and also has a dad who's very involved with his life — offers practical and considerate advice. There's nothing here even remotely shady.
A few days later, while on Fox's Undisputed, LaVar responded.
"Maybe he don't have the relationship that me and Zo got. And I don't think he did. First of all, your mom wasn't there, so something's got to change right there. It's not the same. Lonzo can come home and see his mom and dad all the time. We've been together."
LaVar is right. Kyrie's mom wasn't there. Because she died of Sepsis Syndrome when he was four.
This is something most people who follow the league know. In fact, her name (Elizabeth) is inscribed on each of Kyrie's signature shoes. And LaVar used this as a comeback. Essentially, in response to Kyrie saying "What you're doing is cool, but maybe you need to fall back a bit" Lavar basically said "That's why your momma's dead."
Think about how much of a piece of shit someone has to be to do that. A dead momma comeback is bad enough as a response to an insult. This was just him responding to a practical and sober piece of advice.
I'm not going to call for any type of boycott of his shoes or muzzle of his platform. He can do and say whatever the hell he wants. And, if the idea of what he's doing is important enough to you to ignore who he actually is, fine. Buy his shoes, watch his interviews, and defend him on the internet and in the barbershop. Just know that you're supporting a piece of shit. Which basically makes you a toilet.