Nike executive George Raveling did not mince words when discussing the verbose LaVar Ball today at the CAA World Congress of Sports, calling him “the worst thing to happen to basketball in the last hundred years,” according to the Sports Business Journal’s Michael Smith.
This hyperbolic statement will have a tough time holding up under a serious fact-check. The last century of basketball has seen its fair share of truly awful stuff, from untimely deaths to crooked referees to segregation. But Raveling’s absolute disdain for the elder Ball is instructive when assessing the obstacles the younger Balls’ face.
One would think those self-constructed obstacles are going to get more daunting if the First Take and Undisputed invites keep coming. While LaVar seems singularly focused on raising the profile of the Big Baller Brand, it’s worth considering if his causticness will hurt his sons’ earning potential in the long run.
While a lucrative Nike deal always seemed like a long shot, this comment would appear to put the final nail in that coffin. It’d be silly to believe that only athletic apparel companies like Nike think Ball’s the worst thing since unsliced bread. Big Baller Brand is barely off the ground. There’s no way it can expand to fill the void of potential phone, car or sports drink deals should those other sponsors deem the Balls more trouble than they are worth.
There’s something to be said about selling the heel, but the Ball messaging suffers, at least on the face, due to its inconsistency. Lonzo is engaging and non-controversial, a pass-first teammate who is unselfish on the court. LaVar is larger-than-life and intentionally provocative.
This Dr. Jekyll-Mr. Hyde act has a shelf life. Sooner or later they’ll have to settle on an image. It’s very possible LaVar will have done irreversible damage by the time that happens.