Don’t think twice, Lonzo Ball is a special player. The speed he plays at along with his vision is a a scary combination. He is also the point guard everyone wants to play with because you know that if your open, he’s gonna hit you. Ball has elite size for a point guard that allows him to post up and see over his defenders. The only issue so far for Ball is his shooting, which has completely been blown out of proportion because of his unorthodox form. But Lonzo shot 42% from three point range at UCLA so we know he can shoot it, it’s just a matter of time before he finds his stroke. Lonzo’s stats speak for his character, in the McDonald’s All American game, he had 13 assists and zero points, the game was nationally televised and he was just 18 years old. Usually every kid is just trying to get their own buckets in an all star game, especially when it’s on ESPN, but Ball was still looking to make everyone else better. Then just 10 games into his rookie year in the NBA, social media is flooded with tweets and posts that read “Lonzo Ball is a bust.” And that’s where Lavar Ball makes things very complicated.
Lonzo and Lavar have a very interesting relationship. Their contradicting personalities have been putting Lonzo in a tough position for so long, that he’s almost used to it. Lavar knew Lonzo was special from the beginning, and Lonzo’s loyalty to his father is what makes the family and the brand so special. Without a doubt, Lavar put a big target on Lonzo’s back but he has also made Lonzo into the person and player he is today. The former UCLA star learned to block out the noise at a very young age, even if it came from his own family. Although he’s under very strict criticism from the media, last night’s triple double is proof that he’s ready for the bright lights, even if he doesn’t want the glory.
I first met Lonzo at the McDonald’s All American Game 18 months ago. The night before the media day was the Powerade JamFest, it was an event that contained the Dunk, Three point, and Skills competitions for the All Americans. In between one of the events, they played music and some of the players who enjoyed the spotlight such as Terrance Ferguson, went out to the center of the court and started dancing. They were also joined by someone who wasn’t exactly a five star recruit, Lavar Ball. While his Dad stole the show Lonzo sat on the side and watched, I’m sure he was laughing, but he was minding his own business. Lonzo didn’t care about dancing, or the attention, or the spotlight.
When I spoke to Lonzo the next day, I had to ask him questions like “How are you and your dad so different?” “Is he always like this?” And the question he gets about three times a day now, “How do you deal with him?” Lonzo cracked a smile, and told me, “That’s just who he is, I do my thing on the court and he does his thing off of it.” There’s no doubt Lonzo’s talent has given Lavar a platform, but that doesn’t mean Lavar has “Changed for the fame,” as many have suggested. The public is just getting a glimpse of what Lonzo has been dealing with since he picked up a basketball.
The issue with social media is that everyone knows who Lavar and Lonzo are. Everyone knows what Lavar says, but not everyone has seen Lonzo play. Because of the platform given to Lavar, every pedestrian in America has an opinion on Lonzo, and it’s usually based on what Lavar says. But it’s time we let Lonzo be Lonzo, he is his own player, so why don’t we judge him as his own person. Since he’s been in the NBA there have been multiple occasions, in my opinion, where Lonzo has tried to distance himself from the noise his father has created. First, there was the commercial Footlocker did for Father’s Day, where Lonzo playfully made fun of Lavar’s antics while all the other players gave their best childhood memories (https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=iPteUZfRrKw). Then there was the interview in Boston where Lonzo said he hasn’t talked to LiAngelo or Lavar after the shoplifting incident in China. Lavar told the media that he, “Didn’t understand why everyone was making such a big deal about it.” Finally, after his historic triple double last night he was asked what it meant to be the youngest player to have a triple double. He responded with “I don’t care, we didn’t get the W and that’s all that matters.” Anyone that truly knows how Lonzo plays would expect that response, but it was very eye opening for the average “Ball family hater” to see someone with that last name say something so selfless. With the combination of his game by game improvement and the world finally getting to know who Lonzo is, the Lakers point guard is starting to get some love and respect from social media.
I felt like I needed to write this article because I know how special Lonzo is. I was obsessed with watching that legendary Chino Hills team play, back when they had all three Ball Brothers. I would record every game they played on TV and will still watch them to this day. I even wrote an article about two years ago about how special the team was and how fun it was to watch them (http://jakeinthepaint.com/post/140598210475/photo-via-ballislifecom-the-ball-brothers). Ball changed the culture at UCLA and took them from a mediocre program with a storied past, to a legit national championship contender. Any real basketball fan understands how special Lonzo is, and it’s a shame that the educated voice sometimes gets buried in the majority. But Lonzo has done his thing at every level, and I have no doubt he will continue to improve en route to a great NBA career. Let’s just let him be Lonzo.