Abusive Sports Parents

ABUSIVE SPORTS PARENTS: Lavar Ball Tries to Undercut His Son’s Coach

I want to write about the latest outrageous antics of Lavar Ball, and how he had said publicly that Luke Walton, the head of the LA Lakers, has somehow lost control of this NBA team, and the Lakers’ ownership need to get rid of him.

I mean, really? This coming from the Dad of a first-year player (Lonzo) who is on the Lakers? Not to mention that Lavar has no real coaching pedigree or experience on which to make these assertions.

In short, he’s just a sports parenting Dad who doesn’t know when he has totally crossed the line. But of course, as one caller suggested today, maybe he truly is a marketing genius, and Lavar knows that as long as he keeps making outrageous comments, the media will flock to him and his door. And the more people talk about him, the more of his merchandise he can peddle.

Hmm….I hope not.

In any event, I wanted to get another perspective on this, and so I turned to Bob Bigelow. Bob was an All-Ivy League player at Penn back in the 1970s and he ended up as a first-round draft choice in the NBA. Since his playing days ended, Bob’s become – like myself – a very active sports parenting advocate based in Boston.


In short, Bob agreed with the assessment that Lavar has become most adept at using social media to help keep him and his three basketball playing sons in the spotlight. That being said, Bob felt that the comments about Coach Luke Walton did go too far; after all,  it is most rare for a father of an active player on the team to give voice to his opinion in such a public way.

The irony is that Lonzo has become just the opposite of his Dad. He keeps his mouth shut, doesn’t say to the media, doesn’t seem to want to try attention to himself. As a rookie in the NBA, he has impressed his teammates with his “pass first” approach on offense. True, his outside shooting needs to be improved, but overall, he’s made a genuinely solid impression. Except, of course, for his father.

Lonzo has said that he has no control over his Dad – which is certainly true – that his father is a grown-up and can say whatever he wants.

But you have to wonder what kinds of conversations he must have with his Dad about his father’s outspoken stuff. As noted, Lonzo has been relatively quiet and has tried very hard to stay out of the controversy. But he must cringe at what his Dad will come up with next.

Bob agreed, and I took it one step further: Can you imagine if the Lakers decided that they would want to trade Lonzo, would any other franchise in the NBA ever want this kid – not because of Lonzo, but because of the father? Whether he realizes it or not, he’s made his kid toxic.

Bob laughed and agreed. That would be a most challenging situation for all involved. Who wants to trade for a talented kid, knowing that he comes with parental baggage?


One of the callers mentioned that Eli Apple of the NY Giants may be a victim of similar outrageous comments from his Mom. Apple is a top defensive back in the NFL, and starred at Ohio State. But he’s been criticized by some of his own teammates this year, and his mother has taken to the media to defend him. I find this very odd and unusual. But it’s not too different from what Lavar Ball is doing.

In any event, the caller concluded – and I worry about this – that we might be seeing more and more outspoken sports parents in the immediate future. Parents taking issue with how their kids are being treated at the professional level. And if that’s happening at the pro level, you can only imagine what is going on at the collegiate and HS level.

In short, this is not good and doesn’t bode well for coaches who are trying to build a sense of team camaraderie when parents are openly talking and criticizing them in public. Yes, of course, parents can and do have their opinions. But giving air to them? It’s hard to see how this can lead to any kind of positive outcome.