The Los Angeles Lakers concerns about drafting Lonzo Ball with the No. 2 pick were assuaged by his father, LaVar Ball, during a pre-draft visit to their family home in Chino Hills.
While speaking with Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson during that visit, LaVar made his case that his outspokenness wouldn’t be a problem for the Lakers and that he had taken his son as far as he felt he could, and that he wanted the Lakers to finish the job without his interference.
Probably crucially, he also let Johnson in on a secret about his brash public persona.
"He just said it's marketing," Johnson told Ramona Shelburne of ESPN. "That's what he had to do to market not only his son but the brand. Before I met him I had already thought that. I already knew what he was doing."
Ball’s unique brand of “marketing” is certainly working on some level, with nearly all of his words intentionally tailor-made for headlines to interest people (as this blogger who has had to aggregate most of them can attest, he makes the headline writing process easy).
That’s clearly intentional, and it’s certainly drummed up interest in his family. Is it helping them sell nearly $500 shoes and other such merchandise? I don’t have access to the numbers on that, but I’d hazard a guess it’s at least not hurting sales, or LaVar would probably stop.
LaVar going out and calling Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid stupid and recruiting Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James to join the Lakers in free agency all in the span of a less-than-two-minute TMZ video is genius viral marketing. It keeps his family name in the headlines and garners reaction from people.
Long story short, LaVar’s comments keep the Balls continuously relevant, crucial in an instant gratification era of media consumption. Whether you like or dislike LaVar, you are aware of him and his family, which is clearly all he wants.
If this will lead to similar behavior from more parents of draft picks coming down the pipeline is an open question, but LaVar has certainly had success with it so far. Will it continue to work, or lead the Balls to financial success? Who knows, but it’s all calculated, all part of LaVar’s grand plan, and we’ll see if it works.
Harrison Faigen is co-host of the Locked on Lakers podcast (subscribe here), and you can follow him on Twitter at @hmfaigen.