In just a few weeks, rookie Lonzo Ball will begin his NBA career as point guard for the LA Lakers. Now that his eldest son is well on his way to fame and fortune, controversial dad LaVar Ball is refocussing his attention on his youngest son, LaMelo. This week, LaVar announced that he would be pulling the 16 year old out of Chino Hills High School and opting to homeschool him for his final two years of high school. The announcement was–like most announcements made by Ball–met by a mix of opprobrium and dismal. Is the decision ultimately about education, basketball, shoe promotion, or reality television? It’s hard to say. But it’s not without precedent.
For a highly touted player like LaMelo, who is already committed to playing for UCLA in 2019, opting for homeschooling instead of public school is makes some sense as his grades no longer have much bearing on his near-term opportunity. LaMelo won’t be able to play with his high school team, but he will still play AAU basketball for the Big Ballers, the team coached by his father. And coaching seems to have a lot to do with this decision. LaVar has been openly critical of his sons coach to the media, dishing out insults that are, again, aimed at a high school educator. LaVar seems to want to control his son’s minutes, which might be the ultimate sports dad daydream.
LaVar’s criticisms of Chino Hills coach Dennis Latimore seem largely about Latimore not letting LaMelo take a Kobe-esque number of shots because it’s bad for the team. From LaVar’s perspective, this is bad for his son. From Latimore’s perspective, having a kid take 50 shots is strategically stupid and an awful way to run a team. Both men may be right. If the Big Ballers team ultimately exists to spotlight and provide opportunities for LaMelo rather than other kids, it might make sense for him to focus on that. He may not learn to pass, which is arguably a mildly important skill, but LaMelo will get more reps under his father’s supervision.
LaMelo won’t be the first NBA prospect to be schooled at home. Michael Beasley was homeschooled during high school, leading to accusations that he wasn’t really schooled at all. Because he kept playing for the local high school team, other coaches complained that they were being asked, in essence, to compete against a teenage professional. Beasley went to college, dominated, and got to the NBA quickly. He had a successful career. Who’s to say the homeschooling was a bad call? (Educators probably.)
Once again, making sense of LaVar’s actions in this situation largely comes down to whether or not you think he is ultimately a good father. At this point, no one can deny LaVar’s obnoxious, arrogant tendencies but it’s also tough to argue with his results. Sure, he was annoying and even disrespectful when he was calling out Michael Jordan and LeBron James before his son had even been drafted but just because you don’t want him to be your best friend doesn’t mean he’s a bad dad. Afterall, Lonzo is on the Lakers, just like LaVar always said. And while LaVar openly calling out his son’s high school coach might be a punk move, it won’t matter if it ends up helping LaMelo’s career.