In June, a headline in The New York Times accompanied by a picture of LaVar Ball read: “When Helicopter Parents Hover Even at Work.”
To call LaVar a “helicopter parent” is truly an offense to actual helicopter parents. On Wednesday, Ball basically proposed to helicopter-parent everyone else’s college-aged kids, telling ESPN that he intends to start the “Junior Basketball Association”—a Big Baller Brand–funded basketball league for high school graduates who do not want to join college programs. Lonzo Ball, LaVar’s oldest son, is expected to be the logo of said league.
Logo of LaVar Ball’s league aimed at top high school players is a silhouette of Lonzo ready to dunk. pic.twitter.com/hBf9WHBdJG— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) December 20, 2017
LaVar, according to the report, is planning to pay the “lowest-ranked” player $3,000, and the “best player” $10,000 a month which, if paid out like a G-League salary, would be more than the average G-Leaguer earns. I’m not saying one should question the validity of any claim made by a man who once said he could beat Michael Jordan one-on-one in his prime, I’m just saying that up to $10K a month could mean anything from $1,000 a month to a cameo on the Ball family’s Facebook show.
While money is certainly a nice incentive, attracting top recruits away from storied programs like Duke or North Carolina still feels a bit ambitious. Though that’s clearly a trait LaVar possesses in spades.
“Getting these players is going to be easy,” Ball told ESPN. “This is giving guys a chance to get a jump start on their career, to be seen by pro scouts, and we're going to pay them because someone has to pay these kids.”
The chance of this new venture working, much like LaVar’s plan to send sons LiAngelo and LaMelo to play in Lithuania, feels slim. But it does create an intriguing mock-up (one that will literally be mocked) for what an alternative to the NCAA might one day look like. There is no doubt that the NCAA system is fractured. The facade of amateurism has been roundly critiqued, and so-called student-athletes aren’t given rightful compensation for the money they generate for the schools. The NBA has even reopened discussion about changing the one-and-done rule.
If the NCAA won’t reform, then there’s room for other places to poach players and offer a better option. Whether it’s Europe, the G-League, or this JBA, viable alternatives are beginning to position themselves to take advantage of the growing unrest over the current system. And LaVar, much like he’s done with everything over the past year, is planning to be at the center of it.