Shepard: LaVar Ball deserves our praise

LaVar Ball has said some “zany” things in the past, David Shepard says, but his sons have accomplished something truly special

CBS Sports Radio Weekend
November 23, 2020 - 6:48 pm
LaVar Ball

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Every high school senior that plays basketball in America has a .03 percent chance of getting drafted to an NBA team. That means just 3 out of every 10,000 high school basketball players even make the NBA Draft. To be a top-three pick is even more exclusive. To have TWO sons get drafted as top-three picks, well……that makes NBA history. When the Charlotte Hornets took LaMelo Ball as the third overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, he and his older brother, Lonzo, became the first pair of brothers to both be selected in the top 3 of NBA Drafts.

Unless you have been living under a rock, you know who both Lonzo and LaMelo’s father is, that being none other than LaVar Ball. LaVar got so much attention three years ago that he was being featured on CNN about his back-and-forth with the President of the United States! Multiple national publications called LaVar Ball a torpedo to his sons. There were legitimate questions by national print and media networks alike as to whether LaVar was the WORST father in the world.

In fairness to the media, LaVar made some pretty bold/irrational remarks a few years back. Before Lonzo stepped foot on an NBA court, LaVar was claiming his son was better than Steph Curry. LaVar also said he himself could beat Michael Jordan one-on-one.  Was all this talking taking attention away from his sons? Certainly! Did LaVar love the spotlight, cameras and all the special treatment that comes with being a celebrity? As much as anyone that I can remember, nobody is perfect.

It’s not just that the Ball Brothers got drafted as the number two and number three overall picks. The individuals who made the draft selections were some guys named Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan. Two icons and aficionados of the sport both saw something very special in the Ball Brothers! Can you imagine if you were a parent to two kids and they got drafted by two of the greatest athletes in the history of the sport?  By the way, that sport also happens to be the sport you love the most.

What also is true is that Lonzo is very well liked by his teammates. He is known for being a team-first guy, but even more importantly is known for being a great defender. Defense is usually the toughest skill to acquire as a younger player in this league. Lonzo, in his early 20s, has already become one of the best defensive guards in the NBA. That speaks to his dedication to his craft and to a large degree in how he was raised.

I’ve watched LaMelo conduct himself extremely well in his dealings with the media these past couple of weeks. He is mature, intelligent, well-spoken, humorous and very respectful. Most people that follow basketball knew he was going to be a top draft pick, but few knew what he was like with the media. Especially since he took the path less traveled by electing not to play college basketball.

We know that LaVar said his son was better than Steph Curry. Even more outlandish than that was the claim that he could have beaten Michael Jordan one-on-one. Don’t let the zany remarks take you away from the bigger picture. What Lamar did with two sons in helping them get to the absolute highest level of their profession – and even having a third son play professional basketball after getting a scholarship to play at UCLA – is flat-out special. I wish we paid as much attention to the good that LaVar has done compared to making him out to be just a lightning rod. His three sons by all accounts are very stand-up young men, which is not easy these days!

There have been plenty of famous brothers in NBA History. Steph/Seth Curry, Pau/Marc Gasol and Dominique/Gerald Wilkins just to name a few. In an era where it’s even harder to get drafted number one because of the influx of international talent, the Ball brothers did something that has not been done since the inception of the NBA Draft, which has been around for more than 70 years. It’s fitting that the Ball Brothers got drafted by MJ and Magic because what the Ball family has been able to do is truly magic! The praise for that has to start with the Dad that believed and engendered everything from the start!

CBS Sports Radio producer David Shepard is a former ESPN researcher, a former Division I college basketball practice player, and the host of The Good Shepard YouTube channel. Follow him on Twitter @TheGoodShepard_.