LaVar Ball is a very good father. The man who brought star UCLA point guard and surefire NBA lottery selection Lonzo Ball into existence is extremely proud of that evolutionary accomplishment, and with good reason. The oldest of three baller California brothers and a high-profile candidate for NCAA Player of the Year, Lonzo Ball has an uncanny feel for the game for a 19-year-old. Watch the youngster at work, if you so please:
The dead-eye focus, the lack of hesitation, the anticipation, the coordination and conviction, and the intoxicating style automatically granted to anyone who moves so many steps ahead of his peers: he has all that, and also a psychedelically weird shooting motion. The total package. Lonzo is excellent at this basketball thing, and he is surely going to get better.
LaVar is not content to leave it at that, though. A former NCAA athlete himself, he brought his boy up in a garden of basketball knowledge that he now claims has created an extra-singular prospect, one set to realign the NBA power structure itself with the overwhelming power of his game.
In recent days, Papa Ball has said that Lonzo is better than Steph Curry—"put Steph Curry on UCLA's team right now and put my boy on Golden State and watch what happens," were his actual words—that his branding potential is only comparable to Michael Jordan's, and, most recently and least controversially, that his seed should go No. 1 overall in June's draft.
He has taken a lot of heat for this, which is insane. This is outstanding parenting. Many critics are rolling their eyes at this particular alpha-dad's quixotic dreams, leading one to wonder what sorts of things went down in the childhood homes of those so eager with their condescension. In the grin and the gleam in LaVar's eyes when he talks about his son's talents is a species of hubris, to be sure, but it is the kind of hubris that we should all want to have in our corner, and in the corners of everyone we care about. Love lies in quixotic dreams like these; to believe this deeply in another person is beautiful.
And besides: how off-base is he, really? Lonzo Ball is already so good that he achieves the rare feat of bringing art to the often unwatchably raw college game. He does things with the flick of a wrist—sees and capitalizes on angles and strategies unbeknownst even to many professionals—that turn chaos instantaneously into clarity.
"I'm going to speak it into existence," LaVar says about his wish for Lonzo to end up with the Lakers. In his wild paternal heart, only new Lakers team president Magic Johnson is on his son's level, and so only he can guide his bright vision to the next stage of the game. His thinking is apt: Magic, often dismissed himself by the quantitatively obsessed media of the sport, seems like the kind of guy who would understand the too-infrequent plane of joy on which LaVar operates. Here's to hoping that Lonzo, perhaps the most promising point guard prospect of a generation, is always surrounded and sustained and nurtured by that sort of warmth.