As my colleague Ryan Phillips wrote, LaMelo Ball and Zion Williamson had an AAU duel in Vegas that had gangbusters attendance. Several thousand were there, over 1,000 waited outside wanting to come in but unable to because the arena was at capacity. NBA stars like Damian Lillard and Andrew Wiggins sat courtside. Mark Few and Bill Self were also in the building.
But, ESPN’s Jeff Borzello wrote, the masses were not there to see Williamson, widely regarded as the best basketball player in the country, nor LaMelo Ball, who’s in the top-20 in his class. They were there for Papa Ball:
Rather, the crowd was there to watch the most entertaining showman in sports. “The best coach ever. That’s how I describe myself,” Ball told ESPN before the game. “The best coach ever. Because I said so.”
It didn’t matter that Big Ballers lost 104-92; the crowd didn’t leave disappointed. LaVar walked in surrounded by cameras and microphones, giving handshakes or acknowledgments to anyone calling out his name. People in the crowd began Snapchatting as soon as he went to sit next to Lonzo during the game before his own, and kids waited around after the game to take photos with LaVar. “They’re gonna have to get a bigger venue,” LaVar said after the game. “When the Big Baller Brand come to town, better get something big.”
Mark Few told Borzello that it reminds him of the frenzy of when LeBron was in high school.
The key line in the above block quote is that it didn’t matter that LaVar’s team lost. He stays winning. Has there ever been an environment where the top prospect in the country played second fiddle to the opposing coach?
We still have two more years of LaMelo Ball on the high school and AAU circuit, and despite vociferous protests from the masses about overexposure from the media, it doesn’t even feel like general interest has peaked. This packed Vegas arena follows a couple weeks of Summer League where Lonzo Ball was far and away the biggest variable in huge viewership for ESPN.
Right now, LaVar Ball is almost an autonomous reality series, floating around the sports networks and everywhere digitally, in essence trading content for attention. Sooner than later, you have to figure that a television network will formalize the deal.
UPDATE: already didWhoops, Facebook .