I occupy a weird place on the LaVar Ball Venn Diagram. I simultaneously love the guy AND think ESPN should stop covering him and Lonzo.
Why do I love him? He's an entrepreneur. He's building a company that will make his kids a boatload of money. Instead of Lonzo signing with Nike, Adidas, or Under Armour, he's got his own shoe with "Big Baller Brand." And, as ridiculous as the company may seem now, or how ridiculous the price tags are, this is really a smart move for the era we are living in.
Fifteen-twenty years ago, you needed that big shoe deal. Needed Nike to run things. Needed to get into physical stores. In 2017, especially with physical retail struggling, the question is not who to sign with it's why not make your own stuff, and sell it on your company's website or Amazon.
We are living in the era of the personal brand. Kim Kardashian, Taylor Swift, Beyonce, none of them need any help from labels to succeed. They can run their business through Twitter and Instagram. Which means they can either be independent or have a ton of leverage to get more money from TV networks or music labels since they hold power in the negotiation.
If Michael Jordan or LeBron James were starting in 2017 as opposed to the '80's or early 2000's, I believe they would have started their own thing as well. They would have become the owners of a billion-dollar brand rather than a $10-20 million a year shoe deal. LaVar and his kids are swinging for the fences here with BBB, but it's always better to be in a position to sell your company than work on a salary.
For example, the creators of Instagram were much better off starting their own thing, selling it for $1 billion to Facebook vs. taking a job at Facebook and building it on a $100k a year salary (although, looking back on it, $1 billion was a steal. Instagram is now worth 30-40x that amount.)
So why should ESPN stop covering LaVar and Lonzo?
Because the NBA is loaded with young stars. Joel Embiid (23-years-old) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (22-years-old) look like once in a generation talents. Ben Simmons on Philadelphia looks way closer to the next Magic Johnson than Lonzo. Lonzo is eighth in scoring, not among rookies, but on his own team. Kyle Kuzma is playing much better than Lonzo. Same with Brandon Ingram. He's not even the best Under 22 player on the Lakers, let alone the league.
Not to mention Anthony Davis, Kyrie Irving, Bradley Beal, Nikola Jokic, Kristaps Porzingis, Andrew Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns. I forgot to mention second-year player Devin Booker, who just so happened to drop 70 points in a game last year.
And besides all of the young stars, there's the storyline of Kyrie leading the Boston Celtics to the top of the league. We still have the Warriors with arguably (maybe not even arguably) the best starting five of all time. Oh, by the way, we still have LeBron James. There's Russ/Melo/Paul George in OKC. James Harden and Chris Paul in Houston determined to log the NBA's first ever 200-point game. Seriously, how is there even time left to talk about Lonzo??
It's simple to me. If I'm ESPN, I cover Lonzo like any other player scoring 8.9 ppg on 30.8 percent shooting and 23 percent from behind the arc. Why, if I'm a sports network, would I do anything else?
Because ESPN is an entertainment network
I don't know what other explanation there is. If you are primarily about sports, your NBA coverage would focus on the long list of players and teams above.
BUT, if you are primarily about entertainment, pageviews, clicks, YouTube numbers, then absolutely you push those stories aside and bring on LaVar for a weekly shouting match with Stephen A. Smith and Max Kellerman. You buy up Lakers games and continue to hype Lonzo. It's not a new formula; it's reminiscent of the year when it seemed like ESPN was ready to change their name to ESPN-TEBOW rather than spending their time covering top performers like Brady, Manning, and Rodgers.
Now enter CNN
I try not to touch politics on my blog because it immediately splits your audience in half. But I really don't think this is a Republican vs. Democrat issue. I think we should all be able to appreciate the Trump v. LaVar feud from a pure comedic perspective. Like take a second to breathe this in. We are heading into our Thanksgiving with a Trump vs. LaVar Ball feud to feast on! It is absolutely hilarious. I know there's the whole, "This is ridiculous. President should be worried about bigger issues" argument, but come on, if you're not taking the time to soak this in, you are really missing out on a gift from the social media gods.
Because Trump vs. LaVar is, in a lot of ways, Trump vs. Himself. A man who is building a company off his last name, gets on TV (and stays on TV) not through buying advertisements but by making bold claims, very vocal in support of his children.
And then there's Trump. Wait, which one's which?
And so, just like ESPN felt like it needed to cover LaVar Ball for all of 2016, what choice does CNN have when the President of the United States is Tweeting at LaVar saying that he rescued his son Liangelo and LaVar won't even say a simple thank you. As a news network, you have to cover that, right?
Warriors Head Coach Steve Kerr put it best here in this Sports Illustrated article:
"Modern life," Kerr said. "Two people seeking attention and they're both getting it. I'm sure both guys are really happy. You know what would help? If all of you just stopped covering both of them. Is that possible? You could probably stop covering LaVar. I don't think you could stop covering the president. I don't think that would work. It would be nice for all of us if both of them would just be quiet. That'd be great."
CNN couldn't not cover this and what took place is pure entertainment. If you haven't seen the episode yet, I've included it below. But before you watch it, I just want you to get in the right mindset. This isn't a news interview, this is a Seinfeld or Curb Your Enthusiasm episode. Twenty-three minutes long too, perfect sitcom length.
Imagine this script for a Thanksgiving special episode:
Jerry Seinfeld gets a gig in China performing for world leaders. George, Elaine, and Kramer come along in support. Out shopping the night before, Kramer begins sneaking items into his coat.
George: What are you doing??
Kramer: You've heard the man, they're ripping off our currency, they counterfeit our stuff all the time. I'm evening up the score. (seen taking a thing of steaks from the grocery store freezer) Giddddy up!
George: You can't just even the score.
Kramer: Oh, I'm evening it baby.
Elaine: I actually think he makes a good point (proceeds to sneak a pair of sunglasses)
Next scene - The three in prison. George makes phone call to Jerry.
George: Jerry, we're looking at 5-10 years here!
Jerry: Five to ten? What'd ya steal, the president's car?
Next scene - Jerry performs his stand-up comedy routine. Applause. Backstage later shaking hands with Trump.
Trump: Terrific. Just terrific. You're a funny guy. Great jokes. Yuge laughs. Not as big as mine. My laughs were bigger. But still, yuge laughs.
Jerry: Mr. President, can I ask you a question? I think my friends might need a little help...
Airplane shot, the four walking through airport, mobbed by reporters. Someone asks if they will say thank you to the President. Kramer says thank you, but George responds: Who? What did he do?
Next scene - back in Jerry's apartment
Jerry: Just say thank you!
George/Larry David: Ehhhh, not a big thank you guy.
Elaine: Yeah, why do we have to say thank you anyways? He didn't do anything.
Jerry: He got you out of prison! Kramer already said thank you. George, Elaine, just say the thank you, get it over with.
George: For what? He just happened to be over there. I can thank the Chinese president, but why Trump? There's way too many thank yous out there. WAY too many thank yous going around!
Elaine: Oh, I'm with George 100 percent. I wrote Peterman a thank you note yesterday, and I got a thank you note back in return. What am I supposed to do now, write a thank you to his thank you??
Jerry: I just think it's common decency to give the man a thank you.
George: Let me ask you something, Jerry, did you thank the doctor? The one who delivered you? Or how about today, did you go back and thank the cook for making your sandwich at lunch?
Jerry: I mean he's the President of the United States, the man might deserve a thank you.
George: There's no value in the thank you anymore. No value! Everyone's just throwing it out. Left and right. Thank you for this, thank you for that.
Elaine: Is your wifi down? My Chase Bank app just keeps saying, 'System down, thank you for your patience."
George: See! Who said she's even feeling patient?
Elaine: Look, I'm with George here. Plus I didn't even vote for the guy
Kramer: Oh I did
Elaine: Kramer, you voted for Trump?
Kramer: I like the man's steaks
If you haven't seen the full clip yet, or if you're ready for a re-watch, I strongly suggest you go in with a Seinfeld/Curb Your Enthusiasm mindset and get ready to enjoy the best sitcom episode of 2017. I proudly present the pilot episode of "Ball Your Enthusiasm." Tune in Tuesday nights on CNN.
I'm heading on a blog vacation now for the remainder of 2017, but never fear! I will have some guest posts up every other week that I think you will really enjoy. And then I'll hop out of vacation real quick and do one chronicling the "It's a Wonderful Life" showing at the Music Box Theater.
Going to switch into LaVar Ball mode here for a sec and do a little bit of self-promotion:
- If you are looking for more basketball content, I've got the site "mediumrarebasketball.com" up and running. We've got tons of college basketball coverage, links to the 'Fast Break Lunch Break' podcast for NBA (also available in iTunes or Podcast app), and then this post about film director and 76ers courtside fan M. Night Shyamalan trusting the process. Secretly have a long-term goal of providing apparel - the first idea are gray t-shirts that come with a mustard stain or marinara stain already on them. The idea being that going to the gym, playing lunchtime hoops, is not a fashion show. Also want to create the "Barry O'Bama shoe;" a business dress shoe that doubles as a basketball shoe. We'll see how those ideas work out...
- My first novel, Toilet Bowl, is available as one full book on CreateSpace, Amazon.com, or Barnes and Noble. You can also split it up with Book 1: Meet the Godfreys and Book 2: Tour de Bathroom. Ebook and physical books available for all titles.
- Upcoming projects: If you enjoyed this piece, I am working on an ebook called "Cool as the Other Side" which chronicles ESPN's recent struggles and how I think, and hope, they can turn things around.
What's Toilet Bowl about? Check out the book trailer below.
Finally, if you'd like to subscribe to this blog via email, just enter your email address in the box below or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you (see, another thank you!) for stopping by, and have a GREAT Thanksgiving!