“Who is this guy and why does his name keep showing up in my news feed?” A lot of non-sports fans have been asking that question about LaVar Ball lately. For those who don’t follow the NBA, college hoops, or high-profile Twitter feuds, here’s a quick rundown.
LaVar Ball was born on October 23, 1967 in Los Angeles, California. He attended Canoga Park High School, where he became a star quarterback. At West Los Angeles College, Ball’s focus shifted to basketball and he set a school record for single-season rebounds by amassing 316 of them in 1985. He transferred twice, first to Washington State University and then to California State University, Los Angeles.
In the early 1990s, Ball’s brief tenure as a collegiate tight end got him invited to an NFL tryout. He’d go on to join the practice squads of the New York Jets and Carolina Panthers. Across the pond, he briefly played for the London Monarchs—a British-based American football franchise—before retiring from the game in 1995.
By that point, Ball had saved up quite a lot of football money. With this, he established himself and his wife, Tina (another college basketball veteran), in an affluent Los Angeles neighborhood. Once there, she got a job teaching high school physical education, while he kicked off a new career as a personal trainer. Today, Ball still earns money by helping clients attain their fitness goals. But nowadays, the man’s also got a lucrative side hustle.
LaVar and Tina have three sons: Lonzo, LiAngelo, and LaMelo. Like their parents, all three are basketball players—and they’ve become celebrities in the world of hoops fandom. Lonzo, in particular, has earned a lot of well-deserved attention. Following his magnificent career at UCLA, the Los Angeles Lakers selected him as the second overall pick in the 2017 NBA draft.
In 2016, LaVar founded an athletic apparel company called Big Baller Brand, or “BBB” for short. Advertisements for the organization have centered heavily on Lonzo and his brothers.
LaVar’s also shown a penchant for controversy. Within the past three years, he’s claimed that he could have beaten Michael Jordan one-on-one in college and that Lonzo is more talented than two-time NBA champion Steph Curry. Both claims provoked outrage from journalists. And the media really had a field day this past March, when BBB honored Lonzo by putting out a line of $495 sneakers. During the frenzy, the great Shaquille O’Neal recorded himself lambasting Ball in rap form.
Sports enthusiasts aren’t the only people who’ve taken issue with LaVar Ball’s statements; last month, he managed to tick off Donald Trump. Their feud started when LiAngelo was visiting China for an exhibition game in November 2017. He and two UCLA teammates were accused of shoplifting and detained by the authorities. Trump, who was also in China at the time, discussed the matter with President Xi Jinping. Following their chat, LiAngelo and his fellow players were released on bail—and thus dodged a potential 10-year prison sentence. Although the UCLA students thanked Trump, LiAngelo’s father publicly refused to do so himself.
After the dust had somewhat settled, Ball did end up sending Trump three pairs of those $500 sneakers. “They’re a hot item,” Ball told CNN's Chris Cuomo.