By Danny Kohan
Moments after his son, Lonzo Ball, was selected with the number two pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, Lavar Ball looked straight into ESPN cameras and told the world that the Los Angeles Lakers would make the Playoffs.
Yes, the Lakers, the same team that had not just missed the postseason for four straight years but hadn’t come anywhere close to sniffing it. LaVar Ball predicted a playoff berth for a franchise at rock bottom in the midst of a tumultuous four-year stretch in which it posted an abysmal 91- 237 overall record.
With opening night of the 2017-2018 NBA season quickly approaching, the media and sports fans alike have laughed off papa Ball’s comments as just LaVar being LaVar. The analysts at My Top Sportsbooks are saying the Lakers are not going to be a playoff team this year but they also won’t be the embarrassment of the Western Conference again. (That honor will go to the Kings or Suns.)
Most sportsbooks have L.A.’s 2017-18 win total at 32.5, with Lonzo Ball looking like a legitimate Rookie of the Year favorite in the preseason, and Brandon Ingram and Julius Randle (hopefully) making strides. The site also likes the over and projects the Lakers to win 35 games.
That would be well short of challenging for the postseason but a definite improvement over their 26 wins last year.
Still, even with all that, what struck me most about LaVar’s prediction was not how outlandish it was but how tame I found it to be–mild really. It struck me that Lavar’s hyperbolic standards had been set so high in my mind that as he spoke, I almost expected him to say championship over playoffs.
After all, this was a guy who said, “Back in my heyday, I would kill Michael Jordan one-on-one…He better make every shot ’cause he can’t go around me. He’s not fast enough.” Who when asked how much money he wanted for his son’s shoe deal responded with, “A billion dollars, it has to be there. That’s our number, a billion, straight out of the gate.” A guy who seemed completely divorced from reality.
Who knew what he was capable of saying when ESPN stuck a mic in front of him moments after his son had been selected by his hometown Lakers as he had predicted? Who knew what he would do on the world stage with the spotlight all to himself? Personally, I was prepared for anything–ANYTHING.
He could have declared, “Watch this, I’m taking over as Coach and GM of the Lakers effective immediately. I-MMEEE-DIAT-ELY. Big Ballers don’t take orders! Big Ballers run things,” or even “Guess what? Right here, right now, I’m formally announcing my intentions to run for the President of the United States. Ohhhhh, I’m going to make America Ball again. Real Big Baller’s already know. Vote LaVar 2020 baby.” A playoff declaration was actually disappointing when either one of those quotes seemed entirely plausible.
In fact, LaVar Ball is the answer to the one question no human being on Earth had ever dared consider until now, a question that would’ve forever baffled sociologists and philosophers alike if not for this moment; one that would strike fear into the hearts of each and every American, no, each and every man, woman and child on God’s green Earth. That question: What would happen if (gulp) Donald Trump and Kim Kardashian had a child?
Who would that child be? How would he/she/it behave?
Until LaVar Ball arrived onto the scene, like you, I never dared consider such nonsense, even after Kanye put Trump and his wife in the same bed for one of his music videos, the thought was too much to bear and too much to fester in my mind.
But as the Lakers get ready to start the 2017-2018 season, it’s all so clear. The answer to this once prophetic question is now painfully obvious.
LaVar Ball is that Man Child.
LaVar Ball is the sports world’s Kardashian-Trump.
And if you’re not sick of him now, you will be. Oh, how you will be.
Because now that he’s got your attention don’t think for a second he’s ever letting it go.
A recent article from Anthony Olivieri of ESPN outlined specifically how LaVar Ball trolled his way to the top. The article provides a timeline of outlandish comments made by LaVar in the past year, and demonstrates how each one contributed to the growth of his social media presence.
Say what you want about the man (and plenty have) but there’s one thing about LaVar no one can deny, the man understands how to utilize today’s media to his benefit. Shit, he could have taught a class at Trump University.
Here’s how I imagine the opening lecture of Big Baller Marketing 101 going:
LaVar struts into class, takes a sip of his newly released Big Baller-ade, the room goes silent, he begins…
“First off, let me give it to you straight. No B.S. If y’all want to stand out in the cluttered media world of today, it’s actually real, real simple, REAL simple. You only gotta do one thing; that’s it! ONE THING!”
“That’s right! Polarizing. Say it with me! Because you’re not going anywhere anytime soon if you’re not polarizing. And if that’s too hard for you to remember, how bout this? Write down in y’all notepads three simple little letters: A.B.P.”
Always Be P-O-L-A-R-I Zing.”
“Now, who knows what that means? Who knows!?! It means you MUST elicit a strong emotional reaction from people, whether it be positive or negative, don’t matter, you just gotta make them tingle inside. You gotta push those buttons.”
“Your supporters must not like you, they must LOVE you. They must constantly rave about you fanatically and positively to everyone they know. And your haters can’t just dislike you. Nah, they have to HATE you. Hate you with every fiber of their being. They must despise you and everything you stand for.”
“You want clicks? Be polarizing. Shares? Likes? Followers? Views? Polarizing. Polarizing. PO-LAR-I-Zing.”
“But, it’s not enough to have their attention, no, you must KEEP their attention. Hold on to it with everything you have, with everything you got. If not, you’ll be a passing fad, a distant faded memory of a once viral sensation. That’ll only fill your pockets for a week, a month, maybe a year max.”
“Nope. Not good enough. You must not simply pass through the culture; you must become a STAPLE of it.”
“For only that will fill your pocket for a lifetime, for generations even. Thus, one must not be polarizing some of the time; one must be polarizing ALL the time. A.B.P. Constantly and consistently.”
“Doesn’t matter what you say, doesn’t matter how you say it, just make sure that it gets an intense emotional reaction. Make sure it forces people to pause, if even for half a second, as they’re scrolling through their phones.”
“I don’t want to see any of you merely visit the news cycle, nah, I want you to LIVE and breathe in that freaking place. Get consumed in its vortex, roll around in its filth, take a deep inhale of those glorious fumes and let them pour through your every cell.”
“Trend damn it. Trend! At all costs you must trend. At all costs FEED the beast.
If you fail to do this, the masses will forget you, they’ll get distracted by their fidget spinners, a Kardashian, the next shiny object they see. No. You must break though, again and again, you must break through. I don’t want you to simply try to make the news, I want you to FORCE your way on to the news. On to the cover of that website, paper, magazine.
You got to go after people. Make them angry. Force the public to debate, to choose sides.
You see that scroll on the bottom of the television screen? The one that’s constantly going, 24/7? The one that’s forever feeding the world with useless information? THAT is where you must reside. THAT is where you must live now and forever from this moment forward.
For the value is not in what you say, not in being accurate or even honest, the value is in getting a reaction. It’s in being outrageous, riling people up, standing out from the crowd.
Why? Because in the end, there is only one thing on this Earth that actually matters. Just one thing. Does anyone know what that is??? Anybody??
No! It’s RATINGS. Say it with me RATINGS. Yes, only ratings. To corporations, leagues, advertisers, even certain leaders of the free world. Just ratings.
There are many religions, yes, but in reality we are all operating under the one true God and his name is Nielsen. No doubt. It doesn’t matter how you live your life, how you treat people, what you do, in the end we are ALL judged by the Great Nielsen in the Sky.
What is a person’s worth you ask? Well, that’s easy, how’re their ratings? Did they live a good life or a bad life? Well, there’s a number for that! Ratings.
It’s the one thing that’ll give you power, significance, superiority. The one thing that proves you matter.
And if you forget everything I’ve taught you here today, if you can only take one thing with you for the rest of your days, let it be this: N.S.T.
Never Stop Trolling.”
Lavar raises his Baller-ade in the air and exits class to a standing ovation.