By Parth Parikh,
Sports Business Writer
It is not easy to have an immediate impact on the sports world and to be able to grab headlines in an instant, but it seems LaVar Ball is able to do exactly that on a near-daily basis. The passionate father of three from Chino Hills, California has not failed to attract attention and has secured more guest spots on ESPN and Fox Sports than many professional athletes.
According to LaVar, he has one mission in mind: to ensure his three boys, Lonzo, LiAngelo, and LaMelo Ball end up in the NBA, particularly on the Los Angeles Lakers, after attending college at UCLA. His path has taken many odd and peculiar turns, from claiming he can beat the great Michael Jordan in a one-on-one game of basketball to admitting that his eldest son, Lonzo, having not played an official NBA game in his rookie season, is already better than two-time NBA champion Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors. Include his public spat with Fox Sports’ Kristine Leahy and his decision to price Lonzo’s first signature shoe with the family company, Big Baller Brand, at $495 per pair, and the result is a man who no one can seem to stop talking about.
Now, another chapter has been written in the LaVar Ball saga, with his youngest son LaMelo, who is sixteen years old and already committed to play at UCLA in 2019, releasing his own signature shoe called the MB1, also under the Big Baller Brand, or BBB, label. The release makes LaMelo the first high school player ever to have a signature shoe and the youngest basketball player to be the face of a product line.
Casual fans might be amused, but the NCAA will consider looking into this matter.
College rules prohibit athletes being paid to endorse products and for commits who have not begun their college careers, it might put their eligibility into question. The eligibility issue becomes more important now because a few years ago, the NBA restricted players from coming out of high school directly, reverting them to play at least one year of college basketball or anything similar, like a professional league overseas.
Putting LaMelo Ball’s eligibility with UCLA at stake is not the first time LaVar has battled with the prestigious university. When Lonzo played at UCLA last year as a freshman, LaVar was quick to blame other players and coaches for not helping Lonzo beat fellow star point guard De’Aaron Fox and the Kentucky Wildcats in the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament.
Father LaVar Ball has already commented on the issue, saying the NCAA does not control him or his son and that regardless of the NCAA’s decision or action to look further in the matter, “He’s going to have a shoe.” Only if the NCAA takes up this case will we know if LaMelo Ball will be a UCLA Bruin in the future or not.
Regardless, the LaVar Ball saga lives on, and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon. Only time will tell how this chapter plays out.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, September 12th print edition.
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