LaVar Ball has grabbed so many headlines for his polarizing behavior that one might have thought he was the one getting drafted Thursday night in Brooklyn – not his son Lonzo. Whether it be his proclamations of beating Michael Jordan in a one-on-one game or Big Baller Brand’s $495 sneaker, the 48-year-old father of three has become a media lightning rod over the past several months.
Ball, in New York City with projected second overall pick Lonzo, as well as sons LiAngelo and LaMelo — also both committed to UCLA — caught up with Yahoo Sports from his midtown hotel room the day of the draft. Not surprisingly, it didn’t take him long to offer up a series of predictions, including Lonzo winning Rookie of the Year while guiding the Lakers to a 50-win playoff season and, eventually, all three Ball brothers for the Lakers.
“It’s time for the NBA to be carried by the Ball brothers,” LaVar told Yahoo Sports. “That’s the way I look at it.”
Here’s what else LaVar had to say:
On his draft experience
“What I enjoy is just watching my boy have a good time. To me it’s not a big deal. Reason being is, I’m not finished. I’ve got two other boys, so I can’t be all excited and giddy, ‘OK, Lonzo made it.’ I’m not finished with what I’m doing. It’s good to see Zo happy, it’s a lot of hoopla. What I mean by that, a lot of interviews, a lot of extra stuff, which Zo has to do. He looks a little tired sometimes, he’s just ready to start training and ready to start playing for a team. He wants to play man, that’s what he does. You’ve got this guy caged up and he’s ready to unleash. That’s why I can’t wait.”
On the hype about his Big Baller Brand
“When you hear that, that’s good. Sometimes the way they put it is like, ‘Oh, I was thinking about going Big Baller Brand,’ but you can’t think about it because it ain’t offered to you yet. I ain’t going to offer it to nobody. I’m gonna finish my three boys first, and that’s why I tell people, I wouldn’t mind signing other folks, but I want to make sure my team is taken care of first. Just like a lot of these companies have their big three, I got my big three. They just happen to be all brothers. What I don’t want to do is put 80 percent into what I’m doing for my boys, and 20 percent into somebody else. To me, that’s not fair to just give you 20 percent. It’s not fair for me to give my boys only 80 percent. But it’s flattering, yeah, but I could see people.
“For one thing, their head is spinning. Like I said, our brand, the way we’re doing this, it’s going to set a ripple effect. Somebody is gonna get to thinking soon, ‘We don’t have to be endorsed by these guys. We can go our own way and start.’ Now check this out. If this happens, and it has an opportunity to happen, if you have 50, 60, independents, they can take down three big ones. That’s what they don’t want to happen, that’s what I want to happen. Folks, you can do your own! Nobody is taking it on like that. It starts with somebody, and you gotta have (B)alls to start it. ”
On the Foot Locker commercial
“I never even seen the Foot Locker commercial! You talking about Lonzo’s commercial? That’s why I call it Lonzo’s commercial, because everybody else got one line, Lonzo got a whole paragraph. So, I call it Lonzo’s commercial. And you know what, he was poking fun at his dad, and he wasn’t poking no fun, it’s just real! I did everything like that!
“See people have different opinions, which is fine. Some people think it’s funny, I think it’s truthful, so I ain’t got nothing to worry about. Everything he said on there is true. Positive reactions! You get both, positive and negative, some people think it’s a joke. I’m like, where’s the joke? What part is joking about it? I said, this is truthful for what I did! I said, yo, even a high school coach said, Lonzo needs the ball in his hands for the touches. Because if he gets the ball 90 percent of the time, he’s going to make the right play 90 percent of the time, so you’ve got a great chance of winning. I ain’t saying he gonna touch it and shoot every time but he’s gonna make the right play. And that’s what I had to explain to the high school coach, the ball has to be in his hands.”
On Lonzo and the pick-and-roll
“He ain’t got time to set up for no pick-and-roll every play. NBA run a ton of pick-and-roll? Listen, if you want to compete, if you want to win, less pick-and-rolls you gonna win. That’s why I look at the Lakers and Zo coming in, he’s gonna make that team run. Right now the only team running every single time is the Warriors, and that’s why nobody can really keep up with them. You score 118, they gonna score 130. It’s basically run. They’ll run a few pick-and-rolls here and there but the majority of time, they’re in transition. Lonzo gonna change that Laker team just like that, watch.”
On pairing Lonzo with Brandon Ingram
“I was talking to Brandon Ingram’s dad, I was like, ‘You know what? I’m gonna tell you something before it even happen, your son will be a 25-, 30-point scorer easy with Zo. The fact that he’s gonna play one-on-one a lot, that ball gonna be to him very early. I see him being as big as he is, it’s gonna be a problem for them [shooting guards] to try and stop him – it’s only gonna be [point guards] and [shooting guards] that try and stop Ingram, he’s too big! Zo’s gonna make him into … he’s going to evolve his game into a post player. Because it’s gonna be a mismatch early!
“Throw it full court, 6-10, we throw a full-court entry pass in the paint. Let the guys 6-4, 6-5 try to guard him one-on-one. I’m talking bout Ingram. That ain’t gonna happen! He’s too fast, that’s why I was like when they made the trade, with [Timofey] Mozgov, I was like ‘more speed!’ We don’t need no slow foot up in there, we need to go! So that was a good thing, they gonna be a nice runnin’ team, I already see it. And Luke [Walton] being a young coach is even better for young Zo, because the game has changed and this guy has changed with it. Where a lot of coaches that have been in the league, they kind of still stuck in their ways, they’ve been playing like that a long time and they have to kind of evolve into the new game. Luke is already like 100 percent like, dude, this how we gonna play. Laker fans gonna love it! [Lonzo] gonna make everybody get paid. How you get paid? Winning and success.”
On players who can control the game without scoring
“Only the special ones can, and he’s super special. Like I said, I already plant that seed. Let all the Ball boys get on the same team with the Lakers. Three to five years go by, and bring them all in as free agents. And what I mean by winning championships, on chemistry, my boys already have it. You see what they did in high school, imagine what they can do as grown men and they all on the same page as far as this is our job.
“Here’s one thing that’s never gonna happen if this happens like this. They want to win a lot of championships because all my boys are good, but you get them for nothing and they never gonna be like, ‘You know what? Time for the payday.’ We do so much off the court, it’s a hobby just winning, and stick together. Imagine what OKC would have did now with [James] Harden, Russell [Westbrook], [Kevin Durant]. Them three woulda beat Golden State’s three. [Serge] Ibaka, all them, it would have been their time right now. But the money won’t allow them to do that because everybody wanna get paid.
“With my boys, once they link up together? All of them? Lakers? You got LeBron on his way out, [Stephen] Curry on his way out. Everybody’s a superstar now they gonna be old. Now my boys it’s time for the NBA to be carried by the Ball brothers! That’s the way I look at it.
On the brothers’ chemistry
“They get older, faster, stronger. They’ll be grown men now the game is even faster. When we was playin’, 120? They grown men. Now they 220! Instead of a Corvette, we a Bugatti now.”
On whether LaVar would change anything for his two younger sons
“No, I’d do everything the same. Like I said, they chase their brother. Lonzo chases the GOAT, Michael Jordan. They don’t see nothing but Lonzo. They feel they can do better than Lonzo then they good. He sets the bar up high. If you look at it, that’s what they do, they chase him.
“It’s just like, right now you looking at what Lonzo did in high school, people don’t even realize that Melo average a double-double with 20-something points and more assists than what Lonzo had. And won. They don’t understand that Gelo was the leading scorer for Chino Hills for four years in a row and his career average is 33 points. This dude 35 points a game and you don’t even see that or the fact that he’s the middle brother. You put him on a team, where there’s nobody better than him and you be like, ‘Man this the coldest scorer ever in high school.’
“In a 32-minute game, they don’t even look at his size, which is that Ball weight. Gelo is the only 2-guard in the nation that’s 6-6, 240! That plays inside and outside! But you look beyond that because Lonzo is the first and he’s up so high, Melo’s so young so you gonna miss him, but he’s still effective. ”
On his predictions for Lonzo
“He’ll be rookie of the year, Lakers will make the playoffs, they gonna have a couple of 20-point scorers on they team. Brandon, whoever on the other side. Lonzo will make them there, and [Julius] Randle can be a double-double guy with 20 points and 10-15 rebounds.”
On Lonzo’s numbers
“Here’s the thing with Lonzo, you can’t even think stats. His stat is how many wins. They had 23 wins last year, double that. Fifty or more wins this year, that’s how Lonzo does his dance. Fifty or more wins and make the playoffs.”
On fixing UCLA’s culture and translating that to the NBA
“It’s the same thing, he’s been doing that all his life. And people have been doubting him ever since. ‘Oh you goin’ to Chino Hills, that’s not that small school, we’ll make it one.’ UCLA, when Zo came in, I said, ‘What you wanna do?’ He said, ‘I’ma change the culture! That’s not about me averaging 18 and 10 or whatever, it’s about me getting these Ws.’
“See a lot of people like to make a beast like, ‘Man, I made a beast, I made a monster.’ Now you gotta feed him, my boy gotta love them Ws, that’s how you feed my son. Once you create a monster, you gotta feed him! Some people be like, ‘Come on man you can’t control him!’ You gotta feed him W’s, that’s how you get him.”
Will LaVar change now?
“Man, the public, the media, whatever, regardless of what they say or what they do, I’m still the same guy – I ain’t never gonna change. I’m always gonna be loud, I’m always gonna be confident, funny and fun. You’ll never see me saying I shouldn’t have said that or I should have did this. I’m gonna keep living my style my way, it’s not hurting anybody.
“Like I said, as far as out there smoking and drinking, and beating up people and doing all this bad stuff. All you can say bad about me is, ‘He talks, he’s too confident! I don’t like what he said about his opinion!’ But I’m not bothering nobody, and I’m good.
“I’m just gonna be myself, I’m true to my boys, and they true to me. So, no matter what happens on the outside I know what they about, they know what I’m about. So we never have to be like, ‘Why’d you say this, don’t say that, don’t do this.’ No, like they was talking about the commercial and was like, ‘LaVar did you read it first? Or did they run it by you?’ They don’t have to! My son gonna say what he gonna say. If it feels good to him, he’s gonna say it. If it don’t feel good to him, he’s not gonna say it. But I trust what he gonna say, I don’t have to be like, ‘Lonzo, let me see that before you go.’ I don’t have to do that. He don’t have to say, ‘Well let me check with my dad first.’ But if he ever wants to check with me for something, feel free.
“Everybody’s like, ‘Lonzo needs to be his own man.’ He’s been his own man since he was born! I’m there for him as opposed to it’s a lot of things being 19. You haven’t lived long enough! You don’t have to pay no bills. You don’t have to pay no rent. You don’t know nothing about that part yet. So that’s where I’m at. People say, ‘Oh you need to step back.’ I’m never gonna step back, I’m not behind him! I’m on the side of him and we rolling together. That’s what people don’t get. ‘Lavar you need to step back’. We peers, we both winning. My son loves to play and me and my family love to watch him. So everybody’s winning right now.”
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