A Magazine Journalist Got To Witness LaVar Ball’s Media Mogul Ascent In Real Time

Where Lonzo Ball will play in the NBA will unquestionably be decided at Thursday’s NBA Draft, but it’s very clear the LaVar Ball story is not finished on draft night. With two NBA prospects for sons and a brand to grow, Ball figures to be a major part of the basketball world for years to come.

Zach Baron of GQ took a deep dive into the Big Baller Brand lifestyle, meeting with the Balls for months to produce the piece that dropped on Wednesday. What he saw was a father of three talented basketball players become the hoops story of the moment, and his piece was a really interesting reflection on Ball’s evolution as basketball dad.

The impact LaVar has on his sons is something that’s been debated publicly for months, but each time the Ball children are asked they say LaVar’s big talk doesn’t bother them. In fact, Baron describes watching the Ball children literally checking their phones in boredom as Ball is on ESPN hyping up his sons as better than Michael Jordan.

Lonzo stares intently at his phone. He scrolls through Instagram. LaVar tells ESPN he’ll take $2 billion for Big Baller Brand, no less, and not one of his sons looks up. He says, “I told my boys this: Somebody gotta be better than Michael Jordan. Why not you?”

As his father says this in the next room, Lonzo’s holding his phone up to his ear, as if to drown out LaVar’s voice. Music plays softly out of the phone’s speaker. He looks at the floor, expressionless, like his mind is somewhere far away.

Earlier in the piece, Ball talks about his three sons and their star potential. It’s uncomfortable if you haven’t heard Ball speak about his children before, but it’s extremely on Big Baller Brand here. Ball is critical and pointed while his wife, Tina, speaks about Lonzo, LiAngelo, and LaMelo equally.

“I told my boys that one of them wasn’t going to make it. Because if you’ve got three, only one, maybe two make it to the NBA.” He says, right in front of everyone, that he thinks it’ll be his middle son, LiAngelo, who doesn’t make it. He says he’s told him that. “He’s going to be taken care of either way,” he says. At least Gelo is the handsomest of his sons, he says—if basketball doesn’t work out, maybe he could be a model.
Tina says: “All my boys are handsome.”

LaVar says Melo, with his curly blond hair and highlight-reel game, has the most star power. Tina says: “They all have star power.”

LaVar’s parenting style has rattled many, but he’s also predicted that all three of his sons play for the Lakers as well. And if you talk to Lonzo, this kind of motivation works for him. Maybe that’s the case with all three sons.

One of the most interesting moments of the piece is when Ball is talking to Baron and gets on his marketing kick, something it’s clear he has practiced before.

He gestures at the pool table and the clothing that’s piled on top of it. A $495 Lonzo Ball signature shoe, the soon-to-be-infamous ZO2, will debut in May. But the brand is already strong. “Eighty dollars for a T-shirt—that’s how you know the brand is good. My hat, my leather hat, $100!”

Tina stands next to him, mouthing each word before he says it.

The piece later deals with Tina’s stroke and how the Ball family handled it. There’s also a moment near the end where LaVar seems to lower his guard a bit and speak frankly about Lonzo’s draft position and how people have reacted to his media assault. It certainly humanizes Ball a bit and lets you learn a bit more about a family you probably won’t stop hearing about anytime soon.