LeBron James is everything LaVar Ball wants to be. Unmatched basketball talent. A savvy business man who has created an empire. One of the most famous human beings on the planet. Or is it that Ball thinks he’s already all of those things despite not doing any of the work? Is that the underlying theme here?
There are many problems with a 48-year-old whose only real claim to fame is being a star basketball player’s father running his mouth to each and every media outlet seeking content. He’s well within his right to do it. There’s plenty of overlap between those who find him entertaining and those who find him irritating.
But it was only a matter of time until Ball overstepped the line, both in target and message, that his shtick was exposed as an unstable house of cards built on the assumption that he is someone of import. When a person has no off button, they’ll eventually say the wrong thing about the wrong person.
While Ball’s comments about the difficulty James’ kids may face in their own basketball careers may have some truth, they are outside the little cocoon of latitude he’s built himself. The sports media seems to have carved out a compromise for the eldest Ball: speaking about his kids is fine — a father’s right — while boasting about himself and punching upward is clownish.
And he’s never looked more clownish, more starkly inadequate than he did after James’ stern rebuke. Look at the tale of the tape.
LeBron is one of the all-time greats. Ball averaged 2.2 points per game at Washington State. LeBron is an international icon. Ball is a short-term provocateur living in time of provocateur surplus. Advantage LeBron.
While Ball is out serving as a gigantic, distracting mouthpiece for his kids, James is trying to preserve some sense of normalcy for his by doing the exact opposite. There’s a very strong argument to be made that the latter is a better course of action than the former. Advantage LeBron again?
Ball is not a tactician. He’s trying to build an empire on the strength of punching up, punching down, throwing wildly dubious claims into the marketplace. He’s buoyed by the fact we live in a golden age of nonsense where rewards are rich and punishments lax for such behavior.
James’ emphatic rejection and direct challenge is a reminder that there is pushback to Ball’s endless stream of consciousness from those who matter.
In a way, James, although 16 years younger, is more accomplished and mature than Ball is or every will be. He’s the aspirational embodiment of Ball’s end game. When you put these two shoulder-to-shoulder, it becomes painfully obvious who is on top of the mountain and who is trying desperately to hang on.