Greg Cote

Father Without a Filter: Why Lonzo Ball’s calculating dad turned himself into a loud clown

UCLA guard Lonzo Ball, right, walks away after hugging his father, LaVar, following the team's NCAA college basketball game against Washington State in Los Angeles. The UCLA freshman point guard has been one of college basketball's best players and could be the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft. He's kept up his high-level of play over the past month as his father, LaVar, has become more vocal in the media.
UCLA guard Lonzo Ball, right, walks away after hugging his father, LaVar, following the team's NCAA college basketball game against Washington State in Los Angeles. The UCLA freshman point guard has been one of college basketball's best players and could be the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft. He's kept up his high-level of play over the past month as his father, LaVar, has become more vocal in the media. AP

This NCAA Tournament had two clear No. 1 seeds in the Notable Parents bracket, one of them lovable and swathed in feel-good, the other … um, not so much.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus, the TV comic-actor, was playing herself — supermom, Northwestern’s biggest fan — as she cheered on the team and her son, Charlie Hall, a walk-on who barely played.

LaVar Ball, the accomplished braggart, is playing himself — omni-dad, UCLA’s biggest distraction — as he continues to boast that his son, Lonzo Ball, a freshman star, is better than anybody. At anything. Ever.

Thank you for being you, Mr. Ball.

Please don’t stop. The more the scolding media tells you to shut up, kindly talk louder. Sports can never have too many overbearing parents or people willing to utter completely outlandish statements for our amusement. When they are one in the same, the motherlode has been struck!

It is the chief reason to hope UCLA upsets Kentucky in its Sweet 16 game on Friday night — that Lonzo Ball’s runaway-train-of-a-dad might continue to have microphones offering him the chance to embarrass himself.

Chino Hills (Calif.) High School basketball player LaMelo Ball scored 92 points in a game Tuesday night.

Did I mention that LaVar Ball’s manipulating motivation in all of this is excruciatingly obvious? As obvious as those “Big Baller Brand” T-shirts he wears to pimp his own sportswear line and website?

He is using his son’s talent, his own cartoon-outspokenness and the media platform to make money. And Your Friend the Media — either oblivious or a willing partner in the prostitution — plays along.

And so The Father Without a Filter introduced himself (and his budding, would-be empire) to the world by revealing his son, 19, is right now “better than Steph Curry,” the two-time NBA MVP.

The world brayed laughter.

The Father Without a Filter was just getting started.

He has since gone on to state, “Back in my day, I would kill Michael Jordan one-on-one.”

[Editor’s note: Michael Jordan is the greatest player to ever touch a basketball. LaVar Ball failed to inspire NBA interest after averaging 2.2 points in a 26-game college career at Washington State in 1987-88.]

Ball also mentioned all three of his sons will only play for the Los Angeles Lakers and should expect a billion-dollar shoe deal to be waiting.

He is writing the big cardboard cartoon checks that Lonzo and his two younger brothers must now cover.

I am picturing a Post-it note stuck to the fridge back home that reads:

Dear Dad,

PLEASE BE QUIET!!

Love,

Your sons

Except, those potentially suffering the most from all of the unnecessary pressure being heaped on them seem to be the only people not mad at dad.

Everybody else is. Charles Barkley has a public beef with Senor Ball. Media megaphones from coast to coast have called him a raging egomaniac and worse.

Now even LeBron James has stepped in with an imperial, “Whoa,” after Ball said his sons are better set up for future success than James’ sons.

“Keep my kids names out of your mouth,” James shot back. “Keep my family out of your mouth. This is dad to dad. It’s a problem now.”

(James is prone to dramatic overreaction to all perceived slights, while Ball can’t seem to clear his throat without offending somebody. They’re made for each other!)

Meantime, of course, LaVar Ball’s unlikable braggadocio invites the world to root against his three sons while it also sets the framework for their failures because, based on his own expectations, even if they turn out to be very good NBA players they’ll have disappointed.

Way to go, Dad.

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