LaVar Ball has become one of the NBA’s most infamous characters. Father of Lakers point guard Lonzo Ball, LaVar has expertly crafted a larger-than-life persona. Whether you like him or not, people pay attention to him.
LaVar uses a reality-TV approach. He’s always in character. Everything is dramatized. And he gives the impression nothing is off limits.
Including his wife’s stroke last year.
In his suite on this afternoon, during an interview he insists is recorded, LaVar sidesteps questions that would humanize him and offsets the occasional tender moment about his wife — “As long as she can smile, give a kiss and a hug,” he says, “I’m good” — with striking displays of cruelty — “That’s probably why she had the stroke, so she can be quiet for a minute.”
Rather than slow his gait when they’d go to lunch in Chino Hills, he’d point out she’s “moving like an old-ass lady” because she uses a cane or advise Tina to “put your damn foot forward and walk!”
“Keep moving slow; I’m gonna be inside with the AC blowing,” he now recalls telling her. “[Shoot], I’m not waiting all day for you to walk across the street; you better get to moving.”
LaVar will, during a one-hour interview, praise his wife’s fortitude and progress, but more frequently he brags about the harsh things he has told her over the past 15 months. His words draw shocked expressions from strangers, he says, and LaVar’s own mother often leaves the room when he speaks to Tina this way.
He does not apologize for this or much else, and he believes — or says he believes — Lonzo is the first but not the last of his sons to reach the NBA because of two things: LaVar’s unreasonable expectations and God’s plan, which apparently included giving Tina a near-fatal stroke.
“The Lord said: I’m going to tuck her away in this hospital for a minute, LaVar, till you finish doing what you’re doing,” he says, going on to suggest that his wife’s affliction in no way disrupts their pursuit of success and that he never worried about her because, simply, he’s too lucky for his wife to die young.
“She’ll be a little — excuse my language — [messed] up, but she ain’t gonna die,” he says, and with a videographer maneuvering around the suite, it’s difficult to know whether LaVar truly believes what he’s saying or if it’s just good TV.
LaVar has talked before of speaking things into existence. This could be his own way of loving Tina, being hard on her to drive her to meet the challenges she faces. It worked with Lonzo.
But even just reading these quotes is uncomfortable.
I don’t know what will derail LaVar. His “stay in your lane” comments toward a female reporter – which drew charges of misogyny and sexism – have come closest so far. Will this increase those accusations? Will people actually care?
Or will this just excite LaVar followers, who are drawn to his loudmouth and coarse ways?