LiAngelo, in particular, created a bit of an international incident when he was arrested for shoplifting in China during a trip there with the UCLA men’s basketball team. The fallout of that arrest was wide and in hindsight should not have been surprising at all. LaVar Ball started feuding with Donald Trump, and LiAngelo Ball left UCLA and his younger brother, LaMelo, might not attend the school as well.
Part of the reason Ball left UCLA is because of a suspension and that the NCAA would not reinstate him because Big Baller Brand announced a shoe for the middle Ball child. And NCAA president Mark Emmert has also chimed in on amateurism and the feudal system that is college sports, in which all the grownups make lots of money and the athletes are rewarded with experiences and opportunities.
Emmert, of course, says that the goal of a “student athlete” is to be a part of something at your school, not to prepare yourself for a professional career.
That logic is, of course, complete bullsh*t. College athletics has acted as a de facto minor league system for basketball and football for decades. Amateurism is a legislated, designated pathway to professional sports. And, school spirit be damned, many players feel trapped in the “dirty business” that is the NCAA. They’re beholden to rules that make them be a part of something at a university, delaying their ability to (legally) improve their economic standing while the sands of time and roulette wheel of injuries slowly take away their window for earning.
It’s impressive when someone tries to maintain the thin veil of amateurism at all these days, and Emmert is just saying what feels right. But, if you extrapolate this out a bit, the agreement between the NBA and NCAA about the basketball league’s draft eligibility doesn’t jive with what he’s saying. The “one-and-done” rule does not encourage athletes to enter a rewarding campus experience that creates better leaders and people. It’s a mandatory detour, a 1-year roadblock on the way to becoming a professional athlete. It was never about the old fashioned college try as much as it was pumping free labor into a system that creates massive amounts of money for universities and maybe a few professional athletes here and there.
LaVar Ball and his sons can be criticized for many things, but Emmert picked the wrong one here. Seeing through the silliness of college athletics and eyeing the pros is not a lack of foresight on his part, even if LiAngelo Ball is almost certainly not an NBA player.
Like Emmert, though, you’d be criticizing the wrong part of Ball’s logic if you pick LiAngelo’s talent to bash. LaVar Ball knows Steve Alford and Mark Emmert are not friends of the Ball family, they’re willing participants in a system that barely benefits any aforementioned Big Baller and willingly excludes people when they move to gain benefits of their own. It’s a rigged game, and Ball thinks he doesn’t have to play. He might be wrong, but at least he seems to know the score.
Perhaps fittingly, it appears that the rule might finally be on its way out. But until that happens, the NCAA will remain in a state of hypocrisy. Something by now it’s certainly used to.