After speaking his mind loudly for months, LaVar Ball has finally struck a nerve with one of basketball’s biggest names.
The Cleveland Cavaliers star responded Tuesday to Ball’s claims that his children – UCLA star Lonzo and high schoolers LiAngelo and LaMelo – have brighter futures than James’ 12- and 9-year-old sons in basketball.
“Keep my kids’ name out of your mouth, keep my family out of your mouth,” James told ESPN. “This is dad to dad. It’s a problem now.”
LaVar Ball may have only been a part of the national basketball consciousness for a couple of months, but he’s made no shortage of outrageous remarks. He said he would have beaten Michael Jordan while in his prime as a player. That he wants a $1 billion apparel deal for his sons. He said that Lonzo is already better than two-time defending MVP Steph Curry.
His commentary of James’ children, though, elicited the strongest response to him yet.
“You got LeBron, it’s going to be hard for his kids because they are going to look at them like, ‘You got to be just like your dad,’” Ball said on the “In The Zone Podcast with Chris Broussard. “And after a while, that pressure starts sitting on you like, ‘Why do I got to be just like him? What can’t I just be me?’ And then they are going to be like, ‘Aw, you’re soft, you’re not that good.’ Because the expectation is very, very high.”
James’ eldest son, LeBron James, Jr., has already garnered quite a bit of attention for his play, with his grassroots mixtapes getting millions of views.
Lonzo Ball’s UCLA team is set to play Kentucky in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament this week after Ball turned in an All-American freshman season that figures to end with an early selection in June’s NBA draft.
“I actually like his son,” James said. “I like his game.”
Lonzo’s game is something James respects, which obviously isn’t the case regarding his father’s comments.
“He can talk all about his brand, talk about his sons, talk about basketball, talk about me,” James said. “But keep my family out of this.”
UCLA has been dealing with the distraction of LaVar Ball’s comments all season, so it’s likely the Bruins will be able to shrug them off once more this week, but given the media crush that their game against Kentucky was going to engender anyway, having the likes of LeBron James enter the fray only acts as a multiplier to the questions that will be asked. Which isn’t even to mention the rampant speculation regarding coach Steve Alford potentially returning to coach his alma mater, Indiana.
It’s going to be an absolute circus around UCLA this week.
Then they’ve got to go play Kentucky.