Almost instantly after USA TODAY Sports posted video from the Big Ballers AAU team’s 52-point loss Saturday and then LaMelo Ball’s 50-point effort in another loss Sunday, the Twitter notifications began with the usual criticism.
They are similar sentiments to what followed his 92-point game during the high school season for Chino Hills (Calif.). (By the way, most outlets ignored that he dedicated the 92-point performance to a young girl in need of a heart transplant.)
In brief summary: Doesn’t play defense. Cherry picker. Takes bad shots. No basketball IQ. Who would want to play with him? How many rebounds did he have – or assists? His teammates must hate him.
Soon, what could best be described as a lowlight tape surfaced. Someone took the time to put together two-plus minutes of misses and errant passes.
The lowlight tape was liked more than 54,000 times and retweeted nearly 29,000 times and counting. Another version of the tape was tweeted by a different account and was liked and retweeted in similar numbers. The tape was picked up by media outlets such as Deadspin, BET.com and others.
At a time when rankings continue to identify the top fifth-grade basketball prospects and 9-year-olds have professionally produced mixtapes, scrutiny comes in all forms for all ages.
A famous name makes it even harder – see LeBron James saying his young son is better than he was at the age of 11. Lonzo Ball could be the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft. LiAngelo is heading to UCLA and LaMelo committed to the Bruins at age 13.
Comparisons among players are to be expected and also at the heart of competition at elite camps and events – every player says that — but would there be a lowlight tape if LaMelo’s last name wasn’t Ball?
This seems like a clear example of the “sins of the father.”
Those who want to demonize LaVar Ball see this as just another example of how he has ruined his kids. Fine, you don’t like LaVar Ball. He’s bombastic, brash, inappropriate. You think he was wrong to lash out at a television host – and it’s hard to argue that his method was not out of bounds, disrespectful and sexist with FS1’s Kristine Leahy — even after she previously suggested Lonzo was “genuinely afraid” of his dad and questioned LaVar’s parenting methods.
But it’s not as if LaVar approved of every shot that LaMelo took that appears in the lowlight video or every pass. Circle back to the SoCal Shootout in the first weekend of the AAU season. LaMelo scored 38 points in the first game. In the next game, he struggled and got pulled by Coach Dad. He eventually was reinserted in the game and yes, the team lost when he missed a good look at the game-winner, but there were at least some consequences.
If you want to further criticize Coach Dad, why was his team even in this game? It’s not like the league office makes the schedule. Coaches have input on where to take their teams.
Big Ballers had virtually zero chance to win against the Compton Magic. If ever there was a made-for-TV event on the AAU circuit, this was it. The game was streamed by BallIsLife on its Facebook page. The tournament was played on 21 courts across six venues and had five age divisions, but organizers knew this was the marquee game for Saturday night because of the circus that follows Ball even if his team doesn’t warrant the attention.
The Compton Magic 17U team is filled with Division I players, and it had more size and more experience. This version of Big Ballers doesn’t have Lonzo and LiAngelo Ball or Eli Scott. Even Onyeka Okongwu, a 6-8 star for Chino Hills and LaMelo’s high school teammate, was playing for the Magic.
LaVar Ball was caught on video using profantity and criticizing his players during a fiery halftime speech of a game they were losing mightily. Not saying that’s appropriate, but if that’s not LaVar Ball, does it get any attention? Watch any high school game and you can see coaches berating players. Watch any AAU game, any college game. It happens all the time, often with the profanity included. Again, not saying that’s right.
LaMelo Ball didn’t play well in an ugly loss and neither did his teammates in a game they never were expected to win. There were ugly AAU games all over the nation this weekend with virtually no defense in any of them and plenty of bad shots — an EYBL game in Los Angeles had a 39-point spread; do you know who won? Who lost?
LaMelo seems outwardly immune to the criticism, but how would any 15-year-old deal with this? LaMelo did not respond to a message seeking comment.
Yes, LaVar Ball and his family are newsworthy, but lay off the kid just because you want to demonize his dad.