LaVar Ball is one of the most disliked, if not the most disliked person in sports right now. It’s safe to say that LaVar Ball has rubbed some feathers with people over the past year.
He’s said some absurd things for sure. Like how he thinks his son Lonzo is better than Steph Curry and could do more on the Warriors and contribute more than Steph does. And then came the Jordan comments.
Michael Jordan, the greatest basketball player of all time (arguably), LaVar said he could beat one-on-one in his hay day. LaVar averaged 2.2 points in one year at Washington State, the same year Michael Jordan averaged 35 in the NBA and won defensive player of the year.
The comment was one thing, but the fact that LaVar Ball actually meant it and continues to stand by it, is another.
LaVar and his son Lonzo after a game last season (Photo/ Richard Mackson).
And now we have the new Lonzo Ball shoes, which are set at $495 a pair as well as flip flops, which are set at $220 a pair.
From a business standpoint LaVar Ball is extremely smart, even though he may not be making the decisions because of that reason. It seems like he’s making decisions based on the fact that he believes his sons are the greatest basketball players of all time.
But he does get people talking about his son’s and now his shoes. If the shoes where in the $200 range people wouldn’t be talking about them as much as they are now. So from a business standpoint LaVar Ball is pretty smart, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t obnoxious.
No player has come into the NBA with their own shoe brand, so Lonzo is the first to do that. But, the reason for that is because Nike, Adidas and Under Armour all passed on endorsement deals. Which will make Lonzo, the potential top pick in the draft, a rare exception as many top three picks get endorsement deals.
And it might very well be safe to say it’s because of his dad because LaVar did meet with all three companies to try and get a deal done. None of them bought in.
Longtime Nike executive George Raveling said LaVar Ball was “the worst thing to happen to basketball in the last hundred years.”
It’s true, LaVar Ball is the worst.
What makes it so sad and annoying is not the Jordan comments or the laughable price for his shoes, but how he could be affecting his son’s draft stock.
Lonzo is quiet and doesn’t say much, which is kind of strange, as his father doesn’t stop. Like father, like son doesn’t really apply here. When asked about his father all Lonzo had to say was, “No, I’m not embarrassed. I know how he’s going to act. I just go out there and play. Let him be him.”
For the most part the sports universe has no problem with Lonzo as a whole. Sure, people dislike him for different reasons but nothing like his father.
Lonzo (left) is the oldest among the three Ball brothers. LiAngelo (Right) is the second oldest and Lamelo (middle) is the youngest. (Photo/ Google Images).
The draft order has yet to be set but the Boston Celtics are the favorite to get the number one overall pick. Many have argued that Lonzo should be the number one pick, but then that would entail having to deal with his father. The Celtics, who already have all star point guard, Isaiah Thomas, will most likely have Lonzo play behind of along side Thomas.
If you draft Lonzo Ball, you get LaVar and most teams don’t want LaVar.
We’ll have to see where Lonzo lands but if he lands anywhere besides Los Angeles it will be interesting to see how it plays out.
And don’t think this is going to end anytime soon. Even if Lonzo was to get injured and never play again, which we hope doesn’t happen because he seems like a good kid and a good teammate, there are two more Ball kids. And they both already committed to UCLA, which means more LaVar.
In the grand scheme of things, there’s a reason why Michael Jordan hasn’t responded to any of LaVar’s comments.
He’s not worth Jordan’s time.
You can “Like” The Game Haus on Facebook and “Follow” us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles written by other great TGH writers along with Cameron!
Ben Simmons took a lot of heat for his decision to attend LSU for his mandatory year of service after high school. He pledged himself early and the promise was solidified with the hiring of his godfather as an assosciate head coach. Due to the NBA regulation, one-and-done situations like that of Simmons, have become common for top recruits. Frequently, players are committing to schools that would not be considered among the best in the nation. The 2016 and 2017 recruiting classes are no exception. Washington has grabbed two 5-stars in those classes and Western Kentucky landed 5-Star Center Mitchell Robinson. Analysts have criticized players like Simmons for making the decision to go to a non-powerhouse basketball program. The truth is that it does not matter what people say, the results matter.
The main goal of almost any athlete in basketball is to reach the pinnacle of the sport: the NBA. Any decision that a player makes could be an impact one. In any other career path where you choose to attend school can certainly make all the difference. Are young men in the sport making a poor decision by choosing a less than spectacular program? While it is a big decision, the fact is that a player’s college choice is not as impactful as we make it out to be in terms of professional progression.
Past NBA Examples
There have been dozens of precedents for players coming from smaller schools and programs being successful in the NBA. Their success is one piece of evidence that college is not the leading factor in professional development in the sport.
One of the better examples would be four time all-star and four time Defensive Player of the Year, Ben Wallace. Wallace went undrafted out of Division II Virginia Union, and previously was at Cuyahoga Community College. Ben Wallace had an NBA aspirations, NBA drive and NBA talent. Players in his situation slip through the cracks for being extremely raw at recruitment time or undersized for their position. He went from being a 6 foot 9 under recruited center to one of the leaders on the 2004 Detroit Pistons NBA Finals squad.
There are plenty of examples like that of Wallace from the past: Steve Nash (drafted 15th overall, Santa Clara), Karl Malone (dafted 13th overall, Louisiana Tech), John Stockton (drafted 16th overall, Gonzaga), and many others. These are not role players in the Association. Rather, these are current or future Hall of Famers. However the league has changed over even the past decade. With a dilution of talent, does this assertion hold up currently?
Current NBA Examples
While the league is, in fact, filled with may players from powerhouse schools, some of the league’s best have come from small, mid-major, and power conference schools not exactly well known for their NBA talent production.
Kawhii Leonard was a 4-star recruit before selecting San Diego State. Granted he did have Steve Fisher as his guide through the years, the results of his career thus far have been astounding. After being selected 15th overall by the Indiana Pacers and traded to the San Antonio Spurs he became Defensive Player of the Year in 2015 and 2016. All-NBA First team and NBA Finals MVP also rank among the best of his accomplishments thus far.
Paul Millsap’s combination of power and finesse led to him being drafted out of Louisiana Tech. (Photo Courtesy of draftexpress.com)
Paul Millsap has put together an overwhelming NBA career. He was not a highly touted recruit. He did shine at Louisiana Tech, but was still only drafted in the middle of the second round. Millsap is a three time NBA All-Star.
Damian Lillard is one of the best examples out there. He was a 3-star recruit and was not even ranked among the top 50 point guards of his class. Portland took him 6th overall in the 2012 NBA Draft. After a stellar first season with the Trailblazers he became the NBA Rookie of the Year in 2013. The two time All-Star shows much promise for the years to come in his career.
The league contains a plethora of other examples. Two play on the same team in Stephen Curry (drafted 7th overall, Davidson) and Klay Thompson (drafted 11th overall, Washington State). Paul George (drafted 10th overall, Fresno State), James Harden (drafted 3rd overall, Arizona State) and C.J. McCollum (drafted 10th overall, Lehigh) also all went to smaller schools or non-traditional basketball powers.
The 2016 NBA All-Star Rosters fully embody the notion presented here. The East Roster has 14 members, with Chris Bosh and Jimmy Butler unable to play due to injury. 50% of the East’s roster went to non-traditional basketball powers or smaller schools (Fresno State, USC, Louisiana Tech, Washington, Georgia Tech, and two from Marquette). Marquette made the Final Four with Dwayne Wade, but that actually proves the point further. Wade made that run for the school, along with help of course, and did not end up at a more traditional basketball power. He is now a perennial All-Star.
The West All-Star roster mimics the trends of the East. 58.3% of the West’s roster attended a smaller school or non-traditional power (Davidson, San Diego State, Arizona State, Wake Forest, and two from Texas). Some would argue that Texas and Wake Forest players do not belong in this category, however, neither school has a championship and Kentucky has more Final Fours this decade than either program has in its history. They are hardly basketball powerhouses. However, the All-Star rosters indicate that players do choose these schools and still end up amazing professional talents. Therefore, a trip to UK, UCLA, Duke or North Carolina is not the only path to NBA excellence.
Schools that Guarantee a Draft Spot
Granted that all eligible UK players in the past year entered their names in the draft, there is plenty of proof that powerhouse schools do not guarantee being drafted or NBA success. There is a laundry list of players that enrolled at big schools with their sights set on the pros yet did not blossom for one reason or another.
Marquis Teague is a prime example, being the top point guard in his class in 2011. Teague played a roll in Kentucky’s 2012 National Championship run. Since entering the league in 2012, he averages less than ten minutes per game. Accruing a pedestrian stat line of 2.3 points per and 1.4 assists, he is leagues from the promise that his recruitment showed.
Cheik Diallo did not fill the promise that he had coming into Kansas. (Photo Courtesy of kusports.com)
Even though he has not debuted in the NBA yet, Cheik Diallo (Kansas) is another example. Coming in as a top ten recruit, scouts and coaches thought only the best for him. In his one season at Kansas he averaged a whopping 3.0 points per game in 7.5 minutes of floor time per game. The Pelicans selected Diallo in the 2016 NBA Draft, but it was not until the second round of the draft.
Dozens of other names fit the criteria of players enrolling at a big school that did not work out for one reason or another. Cliff Alexander (Kansas) had academic issues, but did not even come close to expectations. Rasheed Sulaimon (Maryland) was a top 15 recruit but Duke dismissed him and after that no team drafted him. The list goes on and on. Top recruits just do not get a guaranteed pass for attending basketball powerhouses.
The Reality behind the Myth
So why does it not always work? Why do guys come in highly touted with all of the promise in the world but exit without fulfilling expectations? The simple answer would be that players are just overrated as recruits. There is more to it thank that, though.
To begin, NBA talent is NBA talent. This may seem like a simple assertion, but it has broad consequences. Some players do come in raw and due to their college experience, develop into NBA greats. Even then, that usually has little to do with what school they select. Occasionally a coach takes on a protege and turns them into something that they were not before. This is extremely rare and does not come without the player putting in the effort anyway. Most times a player’s work ethic is what ultimately turns them into a star, if they come in with untapped potential.
Additionally, players’ talent can be diluted in programs where there are many a star. At a program with less talent, there is less keeping a player from standing out head and shoulders above the competition as a superstar. At a bigger program, players can take a back seat post injury or to new blood. The next man up mentality is much easier to believe in when there is another five star recruit to fill a void.
So there are several reasons why going to a powerhouse can actually hinder a player from their NBA dreams. In fact, perhaps the best thing for them to do to enter a league full of isolation play is to isolate themselves from other stars.
#9 Washington State’s Luke Falk- Luke Falk is probably a name maybe people are not that too familiar with but he puts up big numbers for Washington State. He is coached by one of the best offensive minds in the game, Head Coach Mike Leach. Leach is a head coach that loves to get QBs that can throw 50-70 passes a game and he has much success with this air raid offense. He has coached many great college QBs, like former No. 1 pick Tim Couch, current Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury, and Graham Harrell. Mike Leach coached B.J. Symons, the current holder of the most passing yards in a single season. In 2003, Symons threw for 5,833 yards and Harrell is second with 5,705 yards. If Falk lets Leach coach him up he might be able to find his way somewhere near the top of that list. At 6’4″, Falk has great height, but he might need to add some weight to be more durable since he is not much of a scrambler. In 2015, Falk passed for 4561 yards and threw 38 touchdowns and only 8 interceptions. Out of the returning QBs, he threw for the second most passing yards. He is the type of QB that can win from within the pocket and let his receivers and backs do the damage with the ball in their hands. Falk did a good amount of damage that season as he and the Cougars went 9-4, which is the best season for the Cougars since 2003.
His best three games of the season, in no particular order, came on a three game win streak for the Cougars. The three games were at Oregon, home against Oregon State, and away against Arizona.
In the Oregon game, Falk threw for 505 passing yards and five touchdowns. The best part about this victory is that it came in dramatic fashion. In the last two minutes of the game, Falk marched the Cougars down the field and they scored on a eight yard touchdown pass to Dom Williams and the game went to OT. Oregon and Washington State both scored touchdowns in the first OT but in the second OT the Cougars came out victorious. Falk threw a pass to WR River Cracraft and he took it near the goal line and coughed up the ball but, WR Robert Lewis was there to pick up the loose ball and he carried it into the endzone. This would be the game-winning TD because on Oregon’s next possession they threw an interceptions. In this game, Falk threw 74 passes with no interceptions and he gave the Cougars their first victory against the Ducks in eight tries.
At home against Oregon State, Falk had a 78% completion rate on 50 throws. He also threw six touchdowns and two interceptions. He threw all of his six touchdowns in only a half’s work and by the second half the game was too far out of reach for Oregon State. This game stuck with me not because of his six touchdown passes but because of his 90.6 QBR, which turned out to be his season’s best. And this was also Washington State’s first home Pac-12 win since November 2013. It was a great day for Washington State and maybe even a better day for Falk. The next week on the road he showed out again.
At Arizona, he had his season’s high for passing yards, 514 yards. He also threw five touchdowns, no interceptions, and had a 75.8% completion rate on 62 passes. In the first half, he was on fire. He went 30 for 38, threw 4 touchdown and already had 335 yards passing. To end the game he had a QBR of 87.4. In this three game stretch, he threw for 1,426 yards on 78% passing, threw 16 touchdowns and two interceptions, and had an average QBR of 81.3. Most importantly he went 3-0 in those games.
Luke Falk will be an under-the-radar QB because he plays for a team that is not on the national stage, but that does not dull how bright he can and will shine. In the 2016, I don’t predict a drop off in play for Falk. If he can improve from this last season and improve in the summer and fall camp, he could bring a 10-win season to Washington State for the first time since 2003.