LaVar Ball Big Baller Brand

LaVar Ball.

The mention of those two words is likely to elicit a visceral reaction of some kind. What started out as a clownishly overbearing father of a top NBA prospect has turned into an inescapable national nightmare with Ball becoming one of the most talked about sports figures of 2017.

Admit it, when it started you were slightly amused, maybe even entertained. The way that he would be comically boisterous without an off switch. How he would preposterously brag about beating Michael Jordan one-on-one. The Big Baller Brand. It was absurd, yes. But LaVar figured out exactly how to game the system and get noticed in 2017 and the media and blogs (including ours) and social media were all too eager to lap it up. We noticed. We watched. We clicked on the links.

We took it all in with a wink and a nod because it was modern day crash TV entertainment at its best. And why not? In a country that can elect Donald Trump as President of the United States, a tyrannical, loudmouth basketball dad can easily become the most talked about person in sports.

And if you know anything about the way the world works in 2017, the mega-heel turn was one of the most predictable things in the world. Because to stay relevant, Ball would have to be even more audacious, even more ridiculous, and even more inflammatory. It started with telling Fox Sports’ Kristine Leahy to “stay in your lane” and continued to Ball getting a female referee kicked out of his AAU game for daring to give him a technical.

It’s enough for some fairly influential voices to deem that they’ve had enough of the basketball firebrand. One of those voices is ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas, who wrote a scathing featured column comparing LaVar Ball to the Kardashians and calling him a “misogynistic buffoon” for his behavior.

Wait, there’s more. Ball essentially bragged after the game about getting an official removed, an egregious act he should be embarrassed about. The removed official is a female college referee, and Ball had the audacity to claim that this woman, like Kristine Leahy, should “stay in her lane.” Well, exactly what lane is that? The female official was in her lane. She was officiating a basketball game until she was relieved of that duty by the event organizer, at the demand of LaVar Ball.

Well, LaVar Ball lost me on that one. Not that he cares or should care, but I am done with him. I am done listening to him, consuming his nonsense or caring what he has to say. If he apologizes to the women he has insulted and changes his bizarre behavior, I can certainly change my mind. But absent that, I will no longer laugh at the behavior of LaVar Ball, nor will I participate in the coverage of his prattle and hot air. It is not worthy of our coverage and not at all funny anymore.

I was wrong about LaVar Ball. He is not a Kardashian. That is far too kind. He is a misogynistic buffoon unworthy of my time.

It’s a great column. One that drew support from some of Bilas’ colleagues like Dick Vitale and Kirk Herbstreit.

In an ideal world, Ball would have had his 15 minutes of fame and gone to take his seat with Ken Bone, Anthony Scaramucci, and that one woman with the Chewbacca mask.

Unfortunately, we don’t live in an ideal world. Even though we know Ball’s not a great role model for how to be a good basketball dad, even though we know he’s undeserving of the attention, even though we know he’s a “misogynistic bufffoon,” he still gets the the headlines anyways.

And in spite of Bilas’ commentary about being done with Ball, his network ESPN sure isn’t. On Monday July 31st, the Ball family was involved in the top four featured stories on ESPN’s NCAA basketball page. Beyond Bilas’ comments was a news article about Ball removing the referee and two pieces about Lonzo’s younger brother LaMelo.

It’s quite the juxtaposition, isn’t it? It’s like telling someone “don’t look over there” and all you’re doing is encouraging them to do just that. None of those stories included an additional debate segment from ESPN’s First Take about LaVar Ball being “out of control.”

So if the best thing to do is to turn LaVar Ball off and tune him out… why can’t we do it? Why isn’t it as simple as just saying no?

Because controversy sells. Because LaVar Ball draws viewers and he draws pageviews. He draws retweets and he draws follows. Anything even remotely related to Ball gets numbers precisely because of the way his larger-than-life persona (the good, the bad, and the ugly) have been built up over the last year. It’s almost Tebowesque in a way.

Sure, ESPN can choose to take the high road here and institute a boycott of Ball and his antics. But do we really believe that exists as a realistic scenario? What, do you expect First Take to talk about baseball or soccer?

In a for-profit media world, companies like ESPN are going to put out there what they think their consumers want, even if they and their employees hate it. Because a click is a click, whether you like it or not.