It’s not that LaVar Ball was wrong about white guys; it’s just he won’t learn when to get lost
Nothing LaVar Ball said was untrue. It’s just that saying it was unnecessary.
He’s clearly one of those guys who says all sorts of things he doesn’t need to. Because he craves the attention.
At this point, you’ve heard about the father of UCLA freshman star Lonzo Ball making excuses for his son’s subpar performance in an 86-75 loss to Kentucky that knocked the Bruins out of the NCAA tournament and proved to be the younger Ball’s last college game. But I’ve been on vacation and just for review, here’s Dad’s assessment from Thursday to The Inland Valley Daily Bulletin of San Bernardino:
“Realistically you can’t win no championship with three white guys because the foot speed is too slow. I told Lonzo: ‘One of these games you might need to go for 30 or 40 points.’ It turned out that was the one game.”
He was speaking of Ball’s fellow Bruin rotation players, shooting guard Bryce Alford (son of coach Steve Alford) and big men T.J. Leaf and Thomas Welsh. It’s worth noting Ball, usually a spectacular player, was limited to 10 points on 4-of-10 shooting (1-of-6 on 3PG) with 8 assists but 4 turnovers. Meanwhile, his opposite for the Wildcats, scoring PG DeAaron Fox, racked 39 points without hitting a single 3-pointer and shooting only one.
Ball could not stay in front of him. It was Ball who looked slow. His father blamed a hamstring pull no one knew about that the son never mentioned.
So now we’ve begun a debate about slow white guys that’s been chewed on for decades and decades. Which is beside the point.
Look, it’s not a question. In general, white guys are slow. And can’t jump. That’s why they have to learn how to do other things. Like shoot the three. It became such a cliche so long ago that a movie was named after it a quarter-century ago.
I have a rule I’ve occasionally shared with other sportswriters about teams in the NCAA tournament: Always beware of the team with Too Many White Guys. Sooner or later, they are going down. If it wasn’t true, the last NCAA champion with as many as four white starters would not have been Pete Newell’s Cal Bears – in 1959.
LaVar Ball shakes hands with his son Lonzo (2) after UCLA’s 77-68 win over Washington State on March 4 in Los Angeles.AP/Mark J. Terrill
So, there’s no debate here.
What’s at question is when and whether LaVar Ball will ever shut the hell up. The fact that he felt the need to rationalize for his kid and place himself in the spotlight – again – is the issue. Then, that he felt the need to do an about-face on Friday and blame his son — that “he didn’t make enough plays for his team to win,” even with the bad hammy.
Can you imagine being an offspring of this jackass? Having to be the mature one while he shoots off his mouth, apparently just to be noticed?
We disparage millennials because they constantly feel the need to build their self-esteem through being acknowledged by strangers. This guy is 48 years old. He has to be retweeted and quoted every week.
The issue isn’t whether Lonzo Ball can play in the NBA. He absolutely can and will be at least a borderline star. Lots of vision and court sense and the ability to make teammates better. I don’t know about his 3-pointer because it has a weird low release point that might not translate to The League. But the rest of his offensive game will.
The issue is not whether white guys dragged his team down. They were what they are. I never believed in UCLA for a long run because they can’t and sometimes won’t play enough defense.
Leaf and Welsh are very good college players who both have a shot at the NBA; both are testing the waters now. Alford is a poor man’s version of his dad – the slow white shooter who often can’t get his shot off against elite athletes. Cliches exist because sometimes they’re the truth. Soph point man Aaron Holiday, also dabbling with an early NBA jump, is super-quick and slippery, can shoot from distance and is creative finding teammates. But he makes too many dicey decisions right now. Add them together and UCLA was what most analysts with a clue thought they were – a Sweet 16 team.
So, none of the stuff LaVar Ball said was all that off-the-mark on its face. It’s just that you don’t need to say everything you think. Not when your kid is part of the team. Player parents are always better seen than heard. That goes for all levels of competitive sport.
And that is the issue. LaVar Ball doesn’t need to apologize for the substance of what he said. He only needs to learn he doesn’t need to say everything he thinks.
But I kinda doubt he’ll ever grasp that lesson if he hasn’t already.
DAVID JONES: firstname.lastname@example.org