It’s hard to think of a more obvious — or odious — example of snowplow parenting than LaVar Ball. He has leveraged what he imagines as a family empire built on his three sons’ basketball prowess (and his mouth).
In the wake of a massive trade that saw multiple picks and players — including LaVar’s oldest son Lonzo — sent to the Pelicans from the Lakers, LaVar bizarrely claimed that he had somehow used reverse psychology to get Lonzo to New Orleans by claiming that he didn’t want him there. He’s also been quick to trash the Lakers in the wake of the trade, declaring that they will never win a championship again as punishment for getting rid of Lonzo, despite his son averaging less than 10 points a game last year.
LaVar has become a media personality known for being an asshole. He’s like the dad screaming at the coach to put his kid in, but instead of yelling from the sidelines he’s saying it into a camera on ESPN. But while he’s proven adept at getting airtime and column inches, he’s guiding his sons into obscurity.
LaMelo, the youngest of the trio, will play professional basketball in Australia. After forgoing a spot on the UCLA basketball team, a program that has produced 98 NBA players, he’ll be a lottery-caliber talent in the basketball wilderness.
LiAngelo played in exactly one preseason game for UCLA before being suspended indefinitely for shoplifting sunglasses on a team trip to China. LaVar got plenty of media attention, including an extended interview on CNN. He also pulled LiAngelo out of UCLA in favor of a year playing in Lithuania and then back in the states in the league owned by — you guessed it — LaVar ball.
LiAngelo is now hoping to make it to the NBA Summer League, where he’s competing against younger, more highly recruited players.
Finally, there’s Lonzo. The oldest Ball brother made it through an entire season at UCLA before being drafted second overall by the Los Angeles Lakers in 2017. His first two seasons have been a mixed bag: flashes of success interrupted by injuries that have limited what he’s been able to accomplish.
There’s also been the behind the scenes headaches on the Lakers, as when LaVar helped arrange for a secret surgery for his son with a doctor who’d also operated on LiAngelo. It was derailed when the Lakers found out and told him the operation could void his contract.
LaVar also criticized former Lakers coach Luke Walton from the day he arrived in L.A., prompting the team to meet with LaVar to convince him to shut up and institute a rule forbidding the media to talk with player family members.
Snowplow parenting is not about love; it’s about anxiety and control. Whether LaVar’s need to be involved is motivated by genuine worry for his kids, building his reputation (and ego), or his business interests, it’s not serving his sons well. Saddled with their father’s reputation and his complete confidence in unwise decisions, they’re struggling to live up to their potential.