LaVar Ball (born October 23, 1967) is an American media personality and businessman. He is the father of three basketball players: Los Angeles Lakers guard Lonzo; LiAngelo, who was enrolled at UCLA briefly with a basketball scholarship; and LaMelo. Ball is the founder and CEO of the sports apparel company Big Baller Brand.
Ball played basketball and American football while at Canoga Park High School, going on to play basketball at the collegiate level for West Los Angeles College, Washington State and Cal State Los Angeles. He played at Long Beach City College for a season, and had a short professional career with the London Monarchs of the World League of American Football, and as a practice squad member of the New York Jets and Carolina Panthers in 1995, but never played a game in the National Football League.
Following a series of bold statements in the spring of 2017, Ball began repeatedly making national sports headlines. His early remarks included saying that his son Lonzo is better than Stephen Curry and claiming that he himself could defeat Michael Jordan one-on-one in basketball. He was subject to both praise and criticism as he continued making similar comments, some of which involved his company, Big Baller Brand. Ball has made several appearances on national TV and has routinely drawn attention from major sports media outlets.
|Born:|| October 23, 1967
Los Angeles, California
|Height:||6 ft 5 in (1.96 m)|
|Weight:||263 lb (119 kg)|
|High school:||Canoga Park (CA)|
|College:||Cal State-Los Angeles|
|* Offseason and/or practice squad member only|
Ball was born on October 23, 1967, and was brought up in South Los Angeles, California. He has four brothers, named LaFrance, LaValle, LaRenzo, and LaShon. Ball attended Canoga Park High School in Canoga Park, Los Angeles, where he was a prominent quarterback on the football team and played basketball as a forward. In one season, Ball grabbed a total of 316 rebounds to break the school record. He stood 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m) and weighed 250 lbs (113 kg) by college. Aside from sports, Ball majored in criminal justice at college and had hopes of being a U.S. Marshal.
Ball first began playing college basketball at West Los Angeles College in the low-tier Western State Conference despite having little experience at the prep level. In the season opener in 1986, he recorded 33 points and 18 rebounds against Porterville College. Ball then transferred to NCAA Division I Washington State and became a starting forward. In 26 games for the Cougars, however; he averaged only 2.2 points, 2.3 rebounds, and 1.0 assists per game. After one season, Ball transferred again to Cal State Los Angeles, which competed in the NCAA Division II, playing alongside three of his four brothers.
Following college, Ball was invited to a football tryout and eventually made a return to the sport. After finishing his college basketball career, he played a single year of college football at Long Beach City College as a tight end. On May 1, 1994, Ball signed with the New York Jets of the National Football League (NFL) as a defensive end. He returned to the Jets on March 7, 1995, as a tight end and was immediately loaned to the London Monarchs of the World League of American Football (WLAF) the same year. In the 1995 season for the Monarchs, Ball recorded 28 yards in kick returns. During his NFL career, he was also a part of the practice squads of both the Jets and Carolina Panthers, remaining with the latter team until late November 1995, albeit with no yards played due to injury. After Ball rose to fame in 2017, his former Monarchs teammate Kenny McEntyre said that he was "garbage," a comment Ball refutes as jealousy from McEntyre.
Although LaVar Ball initially received minimal public attention at the start of 2016, his sons gave him a media platform that he would begin to use increasingly, starting at the end of the year. In July 2015, Ball and his sons made national sports headlines when Gary Parrish of CBS Sports wrote a feature story about the Ball family. In a March 2016 interview with MaxPreps, he first began displaying his confident personality to the public. When asked who Lonzo plays like, he described his son as "Magic (Johnson) with a jumper." The family continued rising in popularity after SLAM magazine featured them in an article in August 2016. Subsequently, Ball himself rapidly rose in profile through a series of incredible comments about his children, such as on November 26, 2016, when in a TV interview he guaranteed that UCLA, spearheaded by Lonzo, would win the 2017 NCAA Division I Tournament. (UCLA lost in the round of sixteen.) On December 14, Ball predicted that all three of his sons would be one-and-done prospects for the NBA draft by playing only one year of college basketball.
Many of Ball's eccentric claims have involved well-known basketball players. In early March 2017, he said that he viewed Lonzo as a better player than Stephen Curry, the NBA Most Valuable Player in 2015 and 2016. UCLA all-time leading scorer Don MacLean called the comments "outrageous," and many bloggers ridiculed Ball for them. Ball has also stated that he believes his eldest son is "the best player in the world," specifically comparing him with NBA MVPs LeBron James and Russell Westbrook. Kyle Boone of CBS Sports responded: "There's no way in the world Lonzo would be taking down LeBron or Westbrook in any form of basketball right now."
On March 13, 2017, Ball said in an interview with Josh Peter of USA Today: "Back in my heyday, I would kill Michael Jordan one-on-one," saying Jordan could only foul him if he did a jump hook, that Jordan could not stop him one-on-one, that Jordan was slower. Ball was widely mocked for making the statement despite having averaged only 2.2 points per game while playing basketball at Washington State.
Ball's comments comparing himself with Jordan resulted in a significant increase in media attention. Following his claim, he appeared on the ESPN show First Take, in which he argued with Stephen A. Smith about his comments on Jordan. As of mid-October 2017, a YouTube video of the segment has received more than 2.4 million views.
Ball has frequently drawn attention to his sports apparel company Big Baller Brand through the media. During his rise in March 2017, he often promoted his brand on national TV, comparing it with major shoe companies like Nike and Adidas. Soon after, Lonzo's connection to the brand while he played college basketball at UCLA raised questions about whether it broke National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) rules. In mid-March, Time wrote an article describing the Ball's campaign against the NCAA rules. On April 20, George Raveling, the global basketball sports marketing director of Nike, called Ball "the worst thing to happen to basketball in the last hundred years." In response, Ball claimed that Big Baller Brand would eventually compete with Nike. In the following week, Nike, Under Armour and Adidas declined to sign an endorsement deal with Lonzo, according to Ball.
On May 4, 2017, Big Baller Brand announced its first shoes, the ZO2, which had a retail price of $495 and would be shipped later as late as November 24. Shaquille O'Neal criticized Ball for overpricing the shoes, while Dick Vitale took aim at the price by citing Lonzo's performance against Kentucky at the NCAA Tournament. On Twitter, many NFL players like Golden Tate were critical of the shoe price, while Arian Foster and others showed their support. Ball answered by posting on Twitter, "If you can't afford the ZO2'S, you're NOT a BIG BALLER!" The Washington Post wrote that Ball's style of promoting of the shoe was both shameless and smart.
On September 1, 2017, Big Baller Brand announced a signature shoe for LaVar's youngest son LaMelo Ball, the Melo Ball 1 (MB1), on its website for pre-order for $395. The announcement once again stirred controversy regarding LaMelo's NCAA eligibility. NCAA spokesperson Emily James said, "Generally speaking, a college athlete or prospect paid for use of their athletics reputation or ability risks their future eligibility in that sport. This includes profiting from the sale of items bearing the young person's name. NCAA rules, however, do allow prospects to promote commercial products prior to enrollment, provided it is not for pay." LaVar expressed a general disregard for the NCAA rules, saying that the shoe would be released whether or not his son would become ineligible.
In November 2017, during a preseason game held in China, Ball's son, LiAngelo, and two basketball teammates from UCLA were detained for shoplifting and faced multiple years in prison if convicted, but Ball stated, "It ain't that big a deal". Following U.S. President Donald Trump's visit to China and a request from Trump to China's president Xi Jinping, LaVar's son and teammates were released by the authorities. Following their release from China, LiAngelo and his two teammates were suspended from UCLA basketball activities indefinitely. Trump took credit for assisting in LiAngelo's release while Ball had been resistant to thank him. In response, Trump tweeted that he would have left them in jail if he had known they would not thank him. A press conference took place shortly after with the UCLA teammates thanking the President for their release. Trump would then give them their blessings, have them make sure they also thanked Chinese President Xi Jinping for their release, and make sure they have a great life with the reminder that life is full of pitfalls.
However, LaVar Ball did not thank Trump. When asked whether Trump should be thanked, he said, "Did he go visit them in jail? Did you go visit them in jail. If you went to visit them in jail then I would say, 'Thank you.'". Following this, Trump stated he should have left them in jail, later reminding people that shoplifting in China is a very serious deal. Ball was interviewed on CNN a day after Trump's comments were tweeted, explaining his side of the story and noting that while LiAngelo will be punished for what he did there, he should not be demeaned for it either. Regarding Trump, Ball said that despite his help, he should not have to say anything and that he should do his political affairs, while Ball would focus on supporting his son. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban later commented that "Ball and Trump were actually so much alike, in that they say what they need to say for PR and they don't apologize for anything since they'll be in the news all day for that". While Ball would send President Trump multiple pairs of custom ZO2 shoes from his Big Baller Brand in the aftermath of their beef, he would send an animated .gif image on Twitter on December 7 dunking over the U.S. President in a further attempt to rile him up.
In the aftermath of the incident, UCLA suspended LiAngelo, as well as the other students involved with the shoplifting incident back in China, under an indefinite basis. LiAngelo would eventually be pulled out of the school on December 4, 2017, under his father's wishes. LaVar felt very displeased with the university's handling on the suspension of his son in particular and noted that UCLA's coaches could have been held more accountable for the situation and that the nation of China had forgiven the guys that shoplifted their stores back in November that year, meaning they should be allowed to rejoin the team. Head coach Steve Alford, however, defended his stance by saying they had to be in a group and not wonder off from the team, although he maintains that he is a coach and a teacher for his team, not a judgmental figure on parents. NCAA President Mark Emmert also commented that they do not want student-athletes being "one-and-done" players focusing on being professionals, claiming they are at the wrong place if that is their motivations. As a result, he and the family's agent, Harrison Gaines, would be looking for overseas exposure on both LiAngelo and LaMelo Ball for at least this season. Both LiAngelo and LaMelo would sign a contract with the Vytautas Prienai–Birštonas of the Lithuanian Basketball League on December 11, 2017, with them being ready for the international debuts on January 2018.
On November 21, 2017, Ball took criticism of Los Angeles Lakers head coach Luke Walton for taking a wrong approach to coaching his eldest son, Lonzo. Ball first mentioned that his son was focusing on getting the victory for his team in a November loss to the Phoenix Suns, before stating that the coaching is making him appear soft, and that his problem mainly stems from the losing the team has been having throughout the start of the 2017–18 NBA season. Over a week later, on November 29, after an overtime loss to the defending champion Golden State Warriors, Ball gave out criticism once again in a post-game interview to ESPN. In that interview, he claims the game should not have gone to overtime, that Lonzo's teammate, Julius Randle, should have passed the ball to his son for the potential game-winning play at hand and that the head coach should not have called a timeout late in the fourth quarter. Starting in December, the Lakers would enforce a new rule, dubbed by employees at the Staples Center to be the "LaVar Ball Rule," to forbid media to talk with the team's family members at home games. On December 12, 2017, the Lakers' front office would meet with LaVar, asking him to tone down the criticisms on their head coach and help create a more positive environment for his son to prosper in.
Many of Ball's decisions, primarily his comments in the media, have raised significant controversy around him and his sons. He has often been subject to criticism from several media outlets for a variety of reasons. Forbes has labeled him "one of the most polarizing figures in sports today."
He has been labeled "outrageous," "wild and crazy," and a "moron." Multiple notable basketball figures, including Kareem Abdul-Jabbar have said that Ball has had a negative effect on the sport to some extent. Philadelphia 76ers teammates Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons have attacked Ball on social media, while John Wall, Kenyon Martin, and Jerry West have also criticized his impact on his children.
On March 25, 2017, after Ball's November 2016 prediction that UCLA would win the NCAA championship, the team lost to Kentucky in the Sweet 16 round of the tournament, with Lonzo pulling a hamstring. Weeks after the loss, Ball said, "Realistically you can't win no championship with three white guys because the foot speed is too slow. I told Lonzo: 'One of these games you might need to go for 30 or 40 points.' It turned out that was the one game. Then once they get to the Elite 8, they're right there." He was presumably referring to his son's three white teammates Bryce Alford, T. J. Leaf, and Thomas Welsh. Lonzo downplayed the remarks, viewing them "as a joke." Brian Mazique of Forbes criticized Ball's comments as "plain racist," while David Whitley of the Orlando Sentinel called them factually correct despite being politically incorrect. Actor Michael Rapaport recorded a profanity-laced rant against Ball as well. One day after making the statement, Ball clarified by saying "I love those guys" and instead pushed blame for the loss onto his son.
On May 17, 2017, Ball appeared on The Herd with Colin Cowherd, a show on Fox Sports, where his remarks towards female host Kristine Leahy were seen as potentially sexist. He never faced in Leahy's direction for the whole interview, apparently trying to talk only with Colin Cowherd on the other side of the studio. Ball argued with Leahy about if Big Baller Brand should market to both men and women, asserting that his brand is not for women, and when she asked him how many shoes he had already sold, he said, "Stay in your lane." During the segment, Leahy expressed that she believed Ball was disrespecting women, and he responded by calling her a "hater" for her previous criticism of his parenting. He also commented, "She scares me. I don't look over there because I'm scared of her. I'm thinking assault right now. Leave me alone."
Later that day on The Herd, Leahy issued a response about her argument with Ball, saying, "So he was upset at me for what I said there, and that’s completely fine. But you can't come at me and disrespect me and not look me in the eye and threaten me. That's just not OK." Ball, however, denied threatening her. The Washington Post reacted to the exchange: "LaVar Ball officially has moved from outlandish to obnoxious." New York Post labeled Ball's remarks on the show a "sexist rant." Following the incident, Big Baller Brand began selling women's clothing on its website. It also started selling T-shirts that read "Stay In Yo Lane." The magazine Complex called Ball's choice to sell the potentially controversial shirts "his most classless move yet." Leahy responded by promoting Girls, Inc. on a Twitter post, an action that Yardbarker called "classy stuff."
Ball drew further criticism for sexism as the coach of the Big Baller Brand Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) team on July 28, 2017, at the Adidas Summer Championships in Las Vegas, after having a female referee who gave him a technical foul be replaced. After being called for the foul, Ball asked Adidas tournament organizers to replace the referee, who he had argued with on previous occasions, and then threatened to pull his team from the game if they did not comply. Adidas soon replaced the official with a male counterpart, but Ball was assessed a second technical foul later in the game, resulting in his ejection and an early end to the game. Following the incident, he said, "She's a woman who's trying to act — I get that she's trying to break into the referee thing. But just giving techs and calling fouls, that's no way to do it. I know what she trying to say: 'I gave LaVar, I gave him a tech, I'm strong.' That ain't got nothing to do with it. Just call the game." Ball also said that the referee needed to "stay in her lane" and criticized her for being "not in shape."
Days after the incident, the officiating group for the event, Court Club Elite, cut ties with Adidas. In a statement, they said, "Adidas and their leadership acted in a manner that does not parallel our views on integrity or professionalism, and neither should be compromised as they were in this situation." Adidas issued an apology, saying that removing the referee was "the wrong decision." In the fallout of the game, several media outlets and newspapers directed flak to Ball's actions. ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas wrote an article in which he labeled Ball a "misogynistic buffoon unworthy of my time." Kirk Herbstreit showed his support for Bilas's comments regarding Ball. A sports column in the Chicago Tribune called him a "media-made Frankenstein unworthy of obsessive coverage."
Since rising to fame, Ball's words and actions have sparked significant debate over his parenting, which has drawn both praise and criticism. His parenting style, which has produced a wide range of opinions, has been compared to those of Richard Williams, Earl Woods, and Marv Marinovich. Although often praised for raising three high-level basketball players and for his entertaining personality, Ball has also been condemned for several reasons. The Globe and Mail has criticized LaVar for trying to "get rich off his kids' accomplishments," labeling him an "addict for attention." Ball received further disapproval after reportedly declining Lonzo's $10 million shoe contract with Nike, Adidas, and Under Armour, instead continuing with his own company Big Baller Brand. Before the 2017 NBA draft, Ball was seen as potential "baggage" that would come with selecting Lonzo, due to his frequent bold claims in the media. An unnamed NBA general manager has condemned Ball for putting too much pressure on his son Lonzo. After Lonzo was picked, New York Daily News labeled LaVar "Jerk of the Week" for making "hollow guarantees" instead of celebrating for his son. On October 3, 2017, after Ball removed his son LaMelo from Chino Hills High School to personally train him, Nancy Armour of USA Today wrote an article calling Ball the "worst sports parent ever."
Ball met his wife, Tina, at Cal State Los Angeles, and they have three sons, Lonzo, LiAngelo, and LaMelo. Lonzo is currently a point guard for the Los Angeles Lakers, while LiAngelo is a shooting guard/small forward that was previously a part of the UCLA Bruins team before leaving the university, and LaMelo originally played at Chino Hills High School before being taught solely by his father in 2017. Both LiAngelo & LaMelo are currently signed with the Vytautas Prienai–Birštonas of the Lithuanian Basketball League as of December 11, 2017.
After his youngest son LaMelo reached four years of age, Ball began training all of his sons to play basketball. They were taught many skills by their father and later played for his Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) team, Big Ballers VXT. For a relatively short period of time in their childhoods, Ball also had them play flag football, with Lonzo playing quarterback and his other sons catching passes. Following an illustrious career at Chino Hills High School in Chino Hills, California, Lonzo became a star at UCLA. Ball's younger sons played at the same high school and originally both committed to UCLA, with LiAngelo briefly attending there in 2017 before joining LaMelo out in Lithuania later that year.
In early July 2017, Deadline.com reported that Facebook would be releasing a reality television show featuring the Ball family. It would be a part of a larger project for the social media website to enter the video business. After several weeks, it was announced that the show, called Ball In The Family, would exclusively air on Facebook on August 31, with the following episodes airing every Sunday, starting on September 10. It was produced by Bunim/Murray Productions, which also helped create the reality TV series Keeping Up with the Kardashians on E! and Real World on MTV.