LaVar Ball is a bigger celebrity than his NBA son

With the second pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, the Los Angeles Lakers selected Lonzo Ball of UCLA. Lonzo’s basketball accomplishments are impressive. They include:

2017 Associated press All-American

2017 First-team All Pac-12

2017 Pac-12 Freshman of the Year

2016 Naismith Prep Player of the Year

2016 McDonald’s All-American

To put it plainly, Lonzo can ball (pun intended). His dad, Lavar, on the other hand, is the the bigger star. We’ve seen parents who live vicariously through their kids. Lavar Ball has taken things to the next level. He’s used the celebrity reserved for athletes like his son to make himself shine.

LaVar Ball is the sports parent equivalent of the moon.

As kids, we looked at the night sky and saw the mesmerizing light we thought was coming from the moon.  Songs have been written and movies made about the moonlight, but we learned in science class that the moon produces no light of its own.

The moon gets its light from the sun, or in Lavar Ball’s case, from the son. Lonzo is a Laker. He’ll be brought along in the tradition of Kareem, Worthy and Shaq. He’ll be tutored by Kobe and managed by Magic.

If Lonzo scores 20 points a night for Los Angeles, he’ll have a front-row reserved seat the Oscars – every year for as long as he wants.

So, why was Lonzo, along with brother LaMelo, at WWE Raw last night watching their father do this?

Don’t be surprised if Lavar squares off against The Miz in a WWE ring on September 24 at the No Mercy pay-per-view event originating from Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Furthermore, don’t be surprised if Lavar Ball gets a TV talk show or radio program out of the deal.

This is his big break, too.

That time I used my super powers to save a kid in trouble…

I’m a HUGE fan of superheroes and more of a DC guy than Marvel. DC includes members of the Justice League – Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, and Aquaman. The Marvel universe consists of Spider-Man, The Avengers, X-Men, etc.

Junior wanted to take me to the movies to see Wonder Woman. Gal Gadot is awesome as Princess Diana of Themyscira by the way. I had three takeaways from the film:

  1. Batman is useless. Sorry, not sorry.
  2. Superman didn’t have to die in Batman vs. Superman. Wonder Woman could have beaten the monster Doomsday all by herself.
  3. Wonder Woman’s ending monologue from the film:

“I used to want to save the world. To end war and bring peace to mankind; but then I glimpsed the darkness that lives within their light. I learned that inside every one of them, there will always be both. The choice each must make for themselves – something no hero will ever defeat. And now I know…that only love can truly save the world. So now I stay, I fight, and I give – for the world I know can be. This is my mission. Forever.”

Unbeknownst to me, the power Wonder Woman spoke of, the power of love, would be put to the test as soon as the movie was over. We pick up our adventure in progress…

Junior had to make a pit stop before we left the theater. As I waited, I noticed a young girl sitting on a bench crying and holding her phone. I overheard her arguing with her mom over the fact that she couldn’t get a ride home.

I introduced myself and Junior and asked what was wrong. The 16-year-old said she’d been there for hours and no one would come to get her. Her mom’s boyfriend was supposed to come, but he stopped answering his phone.

I told her we wouldn’t leave her alone. She tried her mom’s boyfriend one more time and he said he was on his way. Before leaving, I gave her my business card and said if her situation changed, call my cell and I’d get her an Uber.

Junior and I were almost home and my phone rang. Mom’s boyfriend had changed his mind. The girl was nearly hysterical because the theater was about to close.

I kept my end of the bargain and figured out how to order an Uber when I’m not the one being picked up. I tracked her trip home and everything worked out. I’ve called her mom twice and the lady hasn’t called me back. She probably won’t.

As upset as I was with the mom and boyfriend, I’m glad we were there. That child would’ve gotten in the car with anybody last night. She was desperate to get home.

As a dad, I can’t imagine letting my kid go somewhere when I don’t have the means to get her home. And even though mine was safe with me, I also can’t imagine walking away from a kid who needs help.

What on Earth does this have to do with sportsmanship? Everything. Junior is on my team. It’s easy to take care of those on your own team. Junior and I were among the last to leave the Wonder Woman showing Saturday night because we thought there would be a post-credits scene.

This means everyone else who was in the theater with us walked past the young girl as she cried. Everyone who went in and out of the restroom that Junior used ignored her cries. Everyone who walked into and out of every other movie in that section of the theater with their popcorn and candy ignored her cries.

In their defense, no one was obligated to help her. It wasn’t their fault the adults in her life left her twisting in the wind. I didn’t walk away, though. I couldn’t. I can’t walk away from a kid in trouble. And one day, when my Junior is captain of her own team, she will extend her hand and help someone who needs it.

Looks like Wonder Woman was right. Love can save the world.

 

Don’t be a tyrant or a lunatic!

Man Screaming

A wise man once told me you never want to work for a tyrant or a lunatic. As an athlete, you don’t want to play for a tyrant or lunatic. As a coach, you should never be a tyrant or a lunatic.

Tyrants manage through fear. Everyone around them is afraid to say or do the wrong thing. Tyrants make their subordinates feel like a mistake is the end of the world. The basketball player is afraid to miss a shot, the quarterback is afraid to throw an interception and the baseball player is afraid to strikeout.

Unfortunately, fear becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Fearful athletes miss more shots, throw more picks, and strikeout more than confident ones. Tyranny also strips away humanity – from you and your kids. It’s necessary and productive to show them the same patience and love you show your family.

Rapper Kevin Gates once broached the subject in an interview where he was asked about fellow artists who seem to always be in a gangster persona. I think his words also apply to the tyrannical coach. Gates said, “You’re a gorilla all the time? I mean all the time? When you’re out with your kids or on a date with the [person] you love, you’re a Grrr…gorilla. There’s no reason to be that way.”

It’s hard to maintain fear. People usually look to get away from what makes them afraid or they start to resist it. To put it bluntly, you’ll lose your team and/or your job as a coach if you keep being mean to people. Stop it!

Lunatics are people whose directions and direction make no sense. They literally don’t know what they’re doing and keep everyone around them guessing about what’s expected and what success looks like. Lunatics make basketball players run long, slow laps because they didn’t get back on defense fast enough.

Long, slow distance running is the opposite of anything fast. When the kid is done running his laps, he’s going to get back on defense even slower and he’ll be made to run more laps and yada, yada, yada.

Lunatics make their running backs carry the football around school so they’ll stop fumbling. Again, that makes no sense. ¬†Fumbles occur at game speed when the athlete is being chased or tackled. No one is chasing your athlete to third period French.

Former New York Giants running back Tiki Barber had a huge fumbling problem during his career. Instead of making Barber carry the football through a grocery store, his coach, Tom Coughlin, fixed his technique. He had Barber carry the ball almost underneath his armpit and tight to his body.

Barber’s fumbles dropped and the Giants picked up a Super Bowl win out of the deal. Steve Nicollerat, St. Louis University High hall of fame baseball coach often says, “Have a reason for everything you do as a coach. Don’t just do stuff because you saw it on TV or because your dad or former coach did it. If you don’t know why your kids are running a certain drill or play, then stop doing those things.”

Bottom line: Don’t be a tyrant or a lunatic. Even-tempered, smart, detail-oriented people win championships too.

LeBron James and why everything in America revolves around race

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James’ L.A. home was vandalized with racist graffiti earlier this week. The incident prompted the NBA star to make the following statement in the video below:

For those tired of hearing about race, I suggest you try living it. The weariness on LeBron’s face is not from NBA practices or the mental preparation and game-planning necessary to take on the vaunted Golden State Warriors for the third time in the NBA Finals.

He has the same look on his face I do every time I talk about race. It’s exhausting. The burden of trying to convince your country to view you as an equal makes a person tired. One may wonder why LeBron referenced Emmett Till when talking the vandalism at his home.

Emmett Till was brutally murdered. A spray-painted slur doesn’t compare to murder, right? Murder is obviously far worse than vandalism when you evaluate the individual acts, but in the context of racism, it’s all trauma. Worse yet, it’s a collective trauma.

I don’t know how LeBron came to know the story of Emmett Till, but it’s probably similar to the way I and most black men did. When I reached a certain age and started to notice girls, my mom told me about Emmett Till, a 14-year-old boy who was kidnapped and brutally murdered after allegedly flirting with a white woman in Mississippi.

From slavery to the Civil War to Black Codes to Jim Crow to the War on Drugs to mass incarceration to police brutality and every moment encapsulated within each era, black people in America share a collective trauma. We are reminded daily of who we are and where we are.

We cannot escape, transcend or rise above race. LeBron James is an NBA legend while he still plays. He does not engage in illegal activity. He’s married to his high school sweetheart. By all accounts, his kids are good kids. LeBron has made more money than he can ever spend and has fans and admirers the world over.

However, no matter how many championships he wins, points he scores or miracle comebacks he leads, he will always be black. And America will always remind him of it. That’s part of the traumatic effect of the vandalism at his home.

Racism runs the gamut of insensitive jokes to malicious action. You don’t have to be Bull Connor to be a racist. Amos ‘n’ Andy never physically hurt anyone, but their blackface portrayal of African-Americans as shiftless, lazy, bumbling buffoons used jest to reinforce the sentiments behind chains, whips and hangings.

The weariness on LeBron’s face also comes from time spent searching for the right words in the right order – the words that will finally make everyone understand. Those words are hard to come by when LeBron considers all who have tried before him.

Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and so many others have given their best to make America see the error of her ways and accept her most maligned brothers and sisters.

America’s racism is foundational and congenital. It is embedded within the founding document of this great republic. Before the framers established the office of President of the United States in the Constitution (Article II, Section 1), they established that slaves would be counted as three-fifths of a person (Article I, Section 2).

Some view racism as a virus, like the common cold. Over time, it will run its course and go away. This is why you hear people reference the year in a fit of outrage after a racist incident. They think racism should have run its course by 2017.

No, racism is in America’s DNA and must be rooted out, but not by black people alone. Bold leadership is required by those of different shades and equal humanity. Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, LBJ advocated for the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts and Branch Rickey signed Jackie Robinson.

Dr. King said it best. “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.”

 

You can’t bodyslam people!

You can’t bodyslam someone because they ask you about something you don’t like.

You can’t bodyslam your coach for asking you to practice a tough drill.

You can’t bodyslam your teacher for asking you to spellcheck your paper.

You can’t bodyslam your mom for asking you to clean your room.

You can’t bodyslam your dad for asking you to take out the trash.

You can’t bodyslam a reporter for asking you about the score…of anything.

The consequences of bodyslamming another human being include, but are not limited to:

  • Jail.
  • Grounding.
  • Suspension and/or expulsion from your school or team.
  • Being slammed yourself (or worse).

Mom used to tell me to keep my hands to myself and use my words. That’s sound advice these days.

NFL changes celebration rules

Mask

The NFL changed its rules on endzone celebrations Tuesday. Group celebrations are now allowed and the ball can be used as a prop. The ball cannot be used to mimic a weapon and celebrations done in bad taste (i.e. “twerking”) or meant to show up opponents are not allowed.

What could go wrong?

Everything.

The NFL seems to have taken the pejorative “No Fun League” personally and the league will live to regret it. Never underestimate the creativity of young people and their willingness to push the envelope. To borrow from the late Charlie Murphy, young people are “habitual line-steppers” and the overwhelming majority of the league is under 26.

Things will likely will get ugly during a rivalry game. A running back will score and the new rules will allow him to include his offensive line in the celebration. The six men will start doing a version of the Milly Rock. The refs will think they’re twerking because everything is twerking and flag them or the opponents will get upset and there will still be multiple flags and ejections.

Regardless of what anyone says, touchdown celebrations are meant to show up the opponent. There’s no other reason for them. Fans won’t scream any louder than they will for the touchdown. And what’s more entertaining than a well-executed scoring drive?

The product on the field should be enough. Besides, NFL refs have enough to worry about without having to police the Atlanta Falcons’ entry into the Mask Off Dance Challenge when they play the Seattle Seahawks on November 20.

“Mask Off” is the hit single by Atlanta-based rapper Future. The song has sparked a viral nationwide dance challenge where participants come up with their best dance moves to the popular track. Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson is married to Future’s ex, R&B singer Ciara.

Russell and Future are said to not be on the best of terms. But hey, what could go wrong if the high-strung Seahawks defense think the Falcons are trying to show up their QB?

Right.

Everything.

 

How to know if you’re doing too much as a sports parent (aka The Lavar Ball Test)

Thinking Man
Be a thinking man’s (or woman’s) sports parent.

Lavar Ball is the conglomeration of every poor example of sports parenting I’ve ever written about in this space. I’ve addressed his behavior once before and there’s really no need to go there again.

This piece is about you, the sports parent who sees Ball’s behavior as over-the-top, but feels like his endgame is worth the effort. I mean, if his kids end up being multimillionaire, superstar basketball players, who cares what the rest of the world thinks, right?

Here’s the thing: You and your kid are a package deal. Your behavior influences what other people think of your child. If you are consistently disrespectful, overbearing and inappropriate, people will project those attributes onto your child.

Schools, teams and (potential) sponsors will pass on your child because they don’t want to deal with you. Don’t ever think your child is so talented that an organization can’t find another way to succeed.

Good parents give kids the tools to eventually make it on their own. You’ll always be part of the team, it just won’t always be your show. For all of his greatness, Tim Duncan knew when it was time to sit down because a young kid named Kawhi was ready. Let your Kawhi do his or her thing and sit your behind down.

You have to do some self-policing, though. You need to know when you’re doing too much. Here are three easy ways to know if you are doing too much. And if you find yourself doing any of these, stop immediately and take a step back. It’s not about you. It’s about the kids.

  1. If you make outlandish athletic claims about yourself that couldn’t possibly be true, you’re doing too much. You can’t beat Michael Jordan one-on-one, knock out Floyd Mayweather or beat Usain Bolt in a race.
  2. If you make outlandish athletic claims about your kid that couldn’t possibly be true, you’re doing too much. Your kid cannot shoot better than Steph Curry, tumble better than Simone Biles or hit better than Bryce Harper.
  3. If people talk about you more than your child, then you’re doing too much. Simple question: Why are Stephen A. Smith, Colin Cowherd, Jason Whitlock, et al. talking about you and not your kid?

Our kids are like the sun. You don’t have to make an announcement that it’s out. Just pull the shade and let their light shine.