LaVar Ball is back in the news, this time for saying – in reference to UCLA’s Sweet 16 loss to Kentucky – that “you can’t win no championship with three white guys because the foot speed is too slow.” Ball was likely referring to T.J. Leaf, Bryce Alford and Thomas Welsh, who combined for 39 points on 15-of-28 shooting, 16 rebounds, three assists and two blocks in the 86-75 loss.
“I’m just stating a fact,” Ball said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “Here’s the thing. People keep thinking that I blame the white guys. No, no. Every time we lose, I only blame one person – and that’s my son. That’s my son. I don’t blame anybody (else). But I said prove me wrong that you can’t win nowadays with three white guys on the floor at the same time. I’m not saying I don’t like white people and white people can’t win or nothing like that. I’m just saying when you have more athleticism (on the floor), it’s kind of hard when you don’t have the foot speed. That’s just a realistic fact.”
To some people, maybe. But to others, that statement is racist.
“It’s not racial,” Ball said. “I can’t be racial. Some people just take it the wrong way and that’s okay – because that’s how the media (is). They try to twist it around because it’s more interesting when (they) say LaVar is racist. Like I said, I stated my opinion of what I thought. The foot speed is just too slow to catch up with all the athleticism on the court.”
At some point, though, do Ball’s controversial comments negatively impact his three sons?
Ball says no.
“People ask me questions and they don’t want to hear the answers that I have,” Ball said. “I have my own opinion. People at UCLA are saying, ‘Oh, he’s not doing it the UCLA way.’ Hell no I ain’t doing it the UCLA way. I do it the Ball way. It don’t affect my kids at all. I raised my kids. How does it affect them?”
Well, for starters, Lonzo had a bad game against Kentucky. He had eight assists but shot just 4-of-10 from the floor, including 1-of-6 from three-point range, and finished with 10 points.
“Okay, we lost,” Ball said. “Who cares? On to the next one. My boy’s goal was to make it to the NBA, and guess what? That’s where he’s going to be.”
But what about Lonzo’s two younger brothers, LiAngelo and LaMelo? What reception will they receive in college?
“Who cares about their reception?” Ball said. “Once they get on that court and perform, we don’t care what people say. Like I said, we know what each other is about. That’s the main thing. We’re true to ourselves and that’s who we are. . . . This is how I am, but you guys got to understand this basketball stuff, it’s just entertainment, man. It’s no life-or-death situation. There’s no pressure. It’s just entertainment. Just watch it. But I’ve always been entertaining.”
Ball said that his sons aren’t bashful, either.
“It’s the exact same way,” Ball said. “It’s always the same way. It’s exciting. It’s fun. None of us is bashful. It’s just how we are. I’ve been like this all my life, now it’s all these microphones and cameras. I used to wake up and talk to my neighbors just like I’m talking to you.”
Brandon Tierney, however, thinks Ball sometimes comes across as a frustrated former athlete trying to cash checks that his sons haven’t earned yet.
“You don’t gotta worry about no cashing checks,” Ball said. “I do all that. You a talk-show guy and now you’re a psychologist. That’s good. It’s not a big deal. I’m not putting a mark on my boys’ back. They got to do what they got to do regardless of what I say. . . . All my boys are good enough. Trust me. . . . I was a great athlete. All I do is guide them. I don’t push them. I don’t do nothing. I guide them, and they’re exactly where they’re supposed to be.”
Lonzo might be, but what about 15-year-old LaMelo?
“He’s learning to speak your mind and be truthful to yourself,” Ball said. “That way you never have to regret anything you say. That’s what he’s learning. I don’t speak for them. They speak for themselves. I speak for myself. They speak for themselves. If you don’t want me to speak, don’t call me. If y’all don’t want to hear what I say, don’t call me. Everybody thinks I’m interesting. I think you’re interesting.”
Ball, 48, also reiterated that he would have beaten Michael Jordan in a game of one-on-one.
“MJ would have got his ass whooped,” Ball said. “You probably thought he was the world’s greatest baseball player too, huh?”
Tierney wondered why Ball denigrates others to prop himself – and his sons – up.
“I would not denigrate others if people didn’t ask me questions about others,” Ball said. “Yeah, I respect the game, but if you ask me a question, I’m going to give you a direct answer that’s coming out of my mouth from my opinion.”
Ball insists that Lonzo does not feel any pressure to live up to the lofty expectations that Ball created on his behalf.
Ball would like Lonzo to play for the Lakers but wouldn’t pull an Eli Manning, who in 2004 said he would refuse to play for San Diego if the Chargers drafted him. Archie Manning backed up his son’s comments and helped force a trade to the Giants.
So, what if a team other than the Lakers drafts Lonzo? What would Ball do?
“Nothing,” Ball said. “Hey, his goal was to get to the NBA. He will play for any team. As longs he’s inside that gym and playing, he’s going to have fun if he’s playing on the moon. I would prefer him to play for the Lakers because that’s what I want. But here’s the thing. He’ll play for anybody and any franchise and make that team go up. I prefer the Lakers. That’s just my opinion.”